Minter Dialogue with Josh Bernoff

Josh Bernoff is the author, coauthor, editor or ghostwriter of eight business books. He’s published “Writing Without Bullshit” which Toronto’s Globe and Mail called, “a Strunk and White for the modern knowledge worker.” He was the coauthor with Charlene Li of “Groundswell” which was a BusinessWeek best seller. His latest book, and the main subject of our discussion, is “Build a Better Business Book, How to Plan, Write and Promote a Book That Matters.” We discuss the why and how of writing a business book, some super valuable tips around how to position the book, how to get your book “out there,” the importance of an index, audiobooks, cowriting and many other elements that can help a business book be successful. See below for a summary of the interview (via with Josh.

Please send me your questions — as an audio file if you’d like — to Otherwise, below, you’ll find the show notes and, of course, you are invited to comment. If you liked the podcast, please take a moment to rate it here.

To connect with Josh Bernoff:

  • Check out Josh’s eponymous site:
  • Find his latest book, “Build a Better Business Book,” here. (You’ll find a way to get hold the first chapter free)
  • Find/follow Josh on Twitter
  • Find/follow Josh Bernoff on LinkedIn

Summary of the interview with Josh Bernoff (from

  • Introduction to this episode. 0:05
    • Welcome to minter dial. Josh is the author, co-author, editor or ghostwriter of eight business books, including writing without bullshit and groundswell.
    • The main subject of the discussion is build a better business book.
  • How did you get into business books? 1:49
    • Josh describes himself as an author, editor, co-author, ghostwriter, etc, who helps authors to succeed.
    • Josh talks about why he got into writing business books and how he got started writing his first book, groundswell, and why he loves writing books.
    • The number one reason shosh wrote a book was to share her knowledge and make an impact on the world.
    • Writing a book is not a way to build a better business. It is not what shosh is helping people with.
  • What is success for you? 7:49
    • Authors don’t succeed by selling books. Anyone who is actually making a lot of money selling books is making a whole lot of other money giving speeches or being famous independently.
    • Joe pulizzi is the content marketing expert, and his inspiration was a 1957 diagram from Disney.
    • Authors have a persona. A book should support the idea that you have written down the most important concepts about the same topic.
    • Writing a better business book is not the way to fix yourself, unless you have serious confidence problems.
  • Write what people want to hear and believe. 13:26
    • The first chapter of a book needs to speak to either fear or greed. The purpose of the first chapter is to get people interested enough to read the rest of the book.
    • The two ways to do that, fear and greed, is a shorthand for talking about fear.
    • One of the thoughts behind that was do you write what people need to hear or what people want to hear.
    • You have to have a positive that goes along with that. You’re wasting half of your time at work, but unless you follow that up, you’re wasting time.
  • Pushing the limits of the truth. 19:32
    • In the end, if you lie in a book, whether it’s about what you believe or about actual facts, you will get found out.
    • The idea of the scoundrel speaks to the idea of pushing the limits and making it more scary than it might actually be.
    • It is easier to be a lying faker in a 280-word email or a 32nd television commercial than in a 55,000-word business book.
    • The truth, the honest version.
  • Business books are about people stories. 24:37
    • Business books are about people. Stories are a subtitle, and business books are people in stores.
    • The 10 best content marketing techniques have to have people and stories in them in order to make them readable enough that people don’t give up and throw them aside.
    • Every story has to have some frustration in it, or it isn’t realistic. It’s the nature of storytelling.
    • A lot of people that recount stories that haven’t actually lived through it, so there’s sometimes a step too far away to understand what actually made it happen.
  • How to write a book as an employee. 30:32
    • Josh reads a book while working at Forest with charlene. Josh gives some parameters for making the book successful.
    • Josh shares his thoughts on writing while being an employee at Forest.
    • The importance of having a good public relations team at a company, and what happens when a person leaves the company.
    • How to prepare for a divorce.
  • How to choose a co-author. 34:18
    • Steph shares his thoughts on writing a book as a boss.
    • Steph talks about the cultural differences between working for companies in Asia and Europe, and how the idea of an employee becoming a star and having their own URL is somewhat foreign to many types of management.
    • The parameters for choosing a co-writer include sharing a vision, having a clear idea of how to divide up the tasks, and being complementary to the other author.
    • Design a plan and stick to it, and be disciplined about how to get to a conclusion.
  • The importance of positioning and promotion. 39:49
    • Josh has only co-written one book, so his experience thinks about things like the cover, the promotion side, and the negotiation of the whole spectrum.
    • The secret sauce for getting a good PR agency is a combination of legwork and strategy.
    • Five things to think about when reaching out to 216 podcasts, pq, rst, reach, spread and timing.
    • Another area of interest rate was the idea of the audiobook. The benefits are when a person is listening to an audio book by the author, even if it’s not perfect.
  • Robots writing the audiobooks. 45:28
    • Josh has heard of people who have had actors do their audiobooks and they mispronounce key words throughout the entire audiobook.
    • The possibility of robots writing, robots translating and even in one case, robots doing the audio book is a big no no.
    • Being an analyst at a big tv company like NBC or Comcast, and being an expert on the television industry.
    • Being constantly curious and never giving up the quest for new information about what you’re supposed to be knowledgeable about, critical thinking, deeper curiosity and general knowledge.
  • Why is an index so important to Josh? 51:44
    • Why an index is so important to Josh, and why he is the rarest of authors who loves doing indexes.
    • How an index can be used to direct people to where in the book they would find what they’re looking for in a book.
    • We need the worthiness or the nerdiness. Josh has opened up his eyes to some of the things in this idea of creating fear and greed or feeding the fear or greed at the beginning.
    • Check out the book, build a better business book, on amazon or on his website.
  • A Convinced Man by. 56:28
    • Rating reviews are the real currency for podcasts. Check out the show notes with over 2000 blog posts on

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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).

Full Transcript of interview with Josh Bernoff via

SUMMARY KEYWORDS:  book, write, authors, josh, writing, idea, stories, talking, people, company, work, business, person, minter, podcast, truth, publish, interesting, forrester, successful

SPEAKERS: Josh (72%), Minter (28%)

Minter Dial 0:05

Hello and welcome to Minter Dialogue episode number 535. My name is Minter Dial and I’m your host for this podcast. I’m most proud member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. For more information or check out other shows on the Evergreen network, please visit their site, Evergreen So this week’s interview I’m excited to bring with you is with Josh Bernoff. Josh is the author, co author, editor, or ghostwriter of eight business books. He’s published writing without bullshit, which Toronto’s Globe and Mail called a Strunk and White for the modern knowledge worker. He was the co author with my friend Charlie Lee, of groundswell, which was a Businessweek bestseller. His latest book, and the main subject of our discussion, is build a better business book, How to Plan, write and promote a book that matters. We discussed with Josh, the why and how of writing a business book, some super valuable tips around how to position the book, How to get your book out there, the importance of an index, audiobooks, co writing, and many other elements that can help a business book be successful. You’ll find all the shownotes on And if you have a moment, please remember to go over and do a rating and review. And don’t forget, subscribe to catch all the future episodes. Now for the show. Josh Bernoff, my goodness. Great to have you on my show. I followed your work. We’ve been connected through our wonderful mutual friend Mitch Joel, and several others on the wonderful writers group. Great to have you on my show. Josh, in your own words, who are you?


Josh Bernoff 1:49

Ah, I am a guy who helps authors to succeed. That’s who I am. In my own words. I’ve done all sorts of things in my life. I spent 14 years in startup companies I spent 20 years as an analyst at Forrester Research, but I’m primarily an author, editor, co author ghostwriter anything associated with business books. That’s what I want to help people with.


Minter Dial 2:12

So why did you get into business books? Josh? I mean, there’s so many other books out there that sell a lot like novels and things. But why business books?


Josh Bernoff 2:22

Well, to be fair about it, you know, I had always wanted to write a book. And I had had dreams of being a science fiction writer, which was unrealistic. I spent all this time in business. And I spent 10 years as an analyst at Forrester Research, and I was creeping up on the age of 50. And I thought, Oh, if I don’t write a book by the time I’m 50 Oh, am I kidding? So I said to the CEO Forrester, who I had a great relationship with. It’s been really good working here. But it’s time for me to leave. I want to go write books. And to his credit, he said, Well, why don’t you write books for us? I said, Well, that might work out. Charlene Lee and I have been talking about a book about social media. Charlene, of course, was foresters, social media expert, and he’s like, great. Let’s do that. And man, what a wonderful way that was to get launched. So while working for Forrester, I wrote, the first book that’s groundswell came out was very successful. And that launched me and I realized at that point that I love writing books more than anything else. And so everything since then, has been an attempt to work on books as much as I could, for the last 10 years of my, my 20 years at Forrester. And then for eight years that I’ve been on my own books is my thing.


Minter Dial 3:44

Big hat tip to Charlene. Yeah, been on my show a few times.


Josh Bernoff 3:49

Brilliant, brilliant woman I could not possibly have had a better person to start with.


Minter Dial 3:55

So Josh, the idea of writing a book, certainly I’m familiar with the the concept, the you, I studied literature University, and the idea of writing my own book seemed always the thing to do. Is that still something that’s a valid thought today? Do you think that individuals who say I need to write a book should be doing and if they if they are doing so are thinking so what makes that right?


Josh Bernoff 4:22

Well, I’m in the process of researching my own book on business books, build a better business book I surveyed over 200 Business authors. And when I asked them, What was the main reason that you wrote a book, the number one reason was to to share the knowledge that I had, and that generally is what animates people they feel like they know something based on their experience or based on an idea that they’ve had, that the rest of the world needs to hear about. And there is no better way to make an impact than with book like that. But that doesn’t mean that if you write the book, you will have the impact. Of course, there’s an awful lot of other things that go into it. But if your book is about a new idea, powerful ideas about something that you’ve learned that you think the world needs to know, you can bend the way people think with a book. And it’s really hard to have any other method that works quite as well as book for doing that.


Minter Dial 5:28

So do you discourage some of the people that come towards you, in the end of the day is are all reasons for writing a book a good one,


Josh Bernoff 5:38

I discourage all of them. Because, because they mostly have no idea what they’re in for. Right. And I mean, when I talk about book ideas, I say your idea has to be big. That is that has to have an impact on a significant number of people, it has to be right. That is you have to have some proof that you’re not just making stuff up. And most importantly, it has to be new, because we don’t really need the 20th book on email marketing. And so I push back on people’s ideas. Like, you know, I’ve heard that before. And I have to keep pushing on them until they come up with something that really is new. Or, you know, that’s very interesting that you think that do you have any evidence at all for what you’re describing? And if the answer is no, I’m just going to blather on about it for 40,000 words. Don’t really need that book either. And the result is that some people get discouraged that good because I’ve saved them from a huge amount of effort for something that won’t matter. And some people are like, no, no, no, you don’t understand. This is important. And here’s why it is important. And here’s how I know I’m right. And I’m like, Okay, you I can help. Now, we need to help shape that into something that’s that’s, that looks like a book. But at least you started with an idea that’s worth doing. So yeah, I help half of the writers and the other half, I make them go away and consider the error of their ways.,


Minter Dial 7:08

Well, there are many things I want to get into. Well, let’s start with the first thing. When I first saw the name of your book, when we talked about it. I saw build a better business. And I was wondering to what extent Shosh you perceive writing a book as also a way to build a better business?


Josh Bernoff 7:32

Well, the name of the book, that’s just a coincidence. And as I started to search it in social media, and in in Amazon, I’m like, Oh, you search build a better business book, you find things about building a better business, that’s not what I’m helping people with. But authors don’t succeed by selling books. Another way to put that is anyone who is actually making a lot of money selling books is making a whole lot of other money giving speeches or in some other way,


Minter Dial 8:06

or is famous independently.


Josh Bernoff 8:08

Right? Right. So that means that you need to generate leads for your consulting business, or you need to develop a paid speaking business, or you need to add credibility for your the company that you’re, you’re working for. There usually is some other goal here. I can’t resist mentioning here. You’ve had Have you had Joe Pulizzi. On your, your No, no, but I know who Joe is. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So Joe is the content marketing expert, basically, one of the most prominent people talking about it, and he told me that his inspiration was a 1957 diagram from Disney. That showed you know, how the movies and the television shows and the comic books and the music, and the characters, and the theme parks all basically supported each other and circulated around and they were always the Disney made money. Well, if you look at what Joe did with content marketing, including successful content, marketing books, they had training and podcasts and, and events and, and lots of other ways to monetize the ideas in the book. And the most successful authors are at the center of that sort of thing where they have multiple ways to take their their prominence as the author of XY and Z and turn that idea into into revenue and in a lot of different formats.


Minter Dial 9:46

So if I hear you right, Josh, in that sense, it sounds like everything needs to be congruent and related together as in the business you’re running, the speaking the book, the podcast, everything should be Hi, do you related?


Josh Bernoff 10:03

It helps a lot if it is. So if you are, let’s say that you’re an expert in social media marketing, and you write a book about your experiences as a caregiver to someone who had a terminal disease,


Minter Dial 10:21

…which is meaningful to them!


Josh Bernoff 10:24

But that’s not going to help your business at all. Right? Nobody cares. They may they may become interested in your book, but what does that turn into? It doesn’t turn into business for you. So, yeah, they’re there. And you know, this, this makes sense. I think authors have a persona. And that persona is I am the most knowledgeable person about x. And that’s what the book should support is the idea that, that you have written down the most important concepts about that same topic.


Minter Dial  10:55

Yeah, this speaks into the next question, which looks at this notion of better, what is better? And presumably, the way to qualify that is around success. But what is success for you?


Josh Bernoff 11:09

Hmm. Now I, I think that’s the way for, for writers to think about this is better equals, I’ve helped people. So if people, if people read your book, and they actually change, I’m going to change the way I think about strategy, I’m going to change the way I do leadership, I’m going to change the web develops software, there’s a lot of different possibilities, but they need to read your book and actually act differently as a result of it. And if you generate that sort of success with the readers, then you will generate success for yourself. Because what happens after that, the person changes, now they develop software a better way, and then they, they tell their friends, and their people that they work with, you gotta read this thing. That’s the way to do it. And then the word spreads, that it’s that it’s successful. So that’s, that’s what it all comes down to is, can you help readers to solve the problems that they have?


Minter Dial


Sometimes I talked to like psychologists, they went into psychology because they had a psychological issue. And then to become a psychologist to fix themselves. To what extent do you think that writing a better business book can help you fix yourself?


Josh Bernoff


I, unless you have serious confidence problems, this is not the way to fix your, your psyche. I have heard people say, you know, well, you know, I got to the end of the book. And now I feel better about myself, I It’s funny I am, there’s a really talented woman who’s who I edited her book with a co author. And when we got to the end of the manuscript being done, she was like, let’s write another one. I’m like, no, wait, you have to publish and promote this one first. But it was clear that that had had encouraged her. But But I think more important is that when you write a book, you fix your ideas. Because you’re gonna have to think about who is this for? And who was it not for? You’re gonna have to think about how much do you have to budget for this solution that I’m coming up with? Or what are the seven steps that people need to do? Or what people disagree with me? And what are their counter arguments? And how can I take them on? Or really challenging? Are there any case studies that I can cite of people who’ve done what I said, and that actually worked for them. And the result of all of that work is that you now have a bulletproof idea, you have an idea that’s fleshed out in detail. And so it isn’t, writing doesn’t solve your personal issues so much as it solves your idea issues. That’s what becomes bulletproof. If before that you were a slob, you’re still a slob if before that you were a tyrant, you’re probably still a tyrant. But, but at least as far as your ideas go, perhaps we can help you with that.


Minter Dial


While some self reflection will be useful, so one of the things that really struck me reading a book, Josh was this notion of first chapter, you need to speak to either fear or greed. And so reflecting on that as like, I don’t know how to do that. It feels like you’re being either a scoundrel or boring.


Josh Bernoff


Okay, I will react to that. Please, let’s, let’s take let’s take a simple thesis here. If they read your first chapter and give up then you’re not going to succeed. So you need the purpose of the first chapter is to get people to be interested enough to read the rest of the book. And there’s so much noise out there that you really have no alternative but to tap into a strong emotion that the person has and that’s why I talked about the first chapter being the scare the crap out of you. Check After. And I talked about the two ways to do that being fear and greed. But this is really a shorthand. So it’s that sounds really exploitive. But what is fear mean? Well, if you’re talking about danger, for example, if you’re wasting too much time at work, and that interferes with your concentration, yeah, I want people to be afraid that if they keep doing that they won’t be successful. If you’re writing a cybersecurity book, I want people to be afraid that if they don’t take action that they’re going to suffer a data breach. And what is greed mean? Well, greed basically just boils down to, if you do the stuff that it says in this book, you will be better off, you’ll be more productive, you’ll generate more revenue, you’ll generate more leads, your your people in your department will be more successful. Somehow there’s a plus there. And yeah, I don’t have a problem with tapping into the idea that, yes, if you follow this stuff, then you’ll be much better off. And if you don’t, you’re gonna miss out. So fear and greed is just a shorthand for talking about that. I hope that that’s not too provocative for people, but it’s just a way to think about that


Minter Dial


You scoundrel, Josh. Obviously, being a marketer, I’m fully aware of the limits and the challenges with noise. One of the thoughts that I had behind that was, do you write what people need to hear? Do you write people want to hear? Do you write what you believe? Because at some level, we’re trying to tap into the readers’ psyche? Is it what they want? Is it what they need? Is it what you believe?


Josh Bernoff


So I don’t think you want to write what people want to hear. I don’t like books like that. It’s like, well…


Minter Dial


I want to make a million Josh, you know!


Josh Bernoff


I don’t know. No, I think this is what Chat GPT does. It writes what people expect. And if you’re like, you know, you, you can if I tell you, you can make a million dollars, even though you probably can’t, that’s not really honest. That’s I don’t like that. So can you tell them what they need to hear? Well, yeah, but you have to have a positive that goes along with that, you know, you’re, you’re wasting half of your time at work. Maybe they need to hear that. But unless they follow that up with, and here’s a way to stop wasting time and be more successful, then you’re just basically making people feel bad. And that’s not going to be successful for them. I definitely think you need to write what you believe. You know, it’s interesting. I, I’ve been getting more ghost writing proposals recently, where people want me to go straight a book for them. And I read some of these and I say, Now, I can’t do that. Because you want me to say stuff that I don’t think is true. And I can’t possibly successfully write about things that I don’t actually believe.


Minter Dial


So you as a ghostwriter you your own piece opinion, makes it difficult for you to go straight for somebody else, something you don’t believe.


Josh Bernoff


I’d say impossible. Now, luckily for me, you know, you want to write about marketing technology. Well, I know enough about that, to be able to understand the value of that, and I can do that you want


Minter Dial


But also, presumably Josh, you’d also be able to discern between a marketing technique that’s full of shit or not going to work. And some that does.


Josh Bernoff


Definitely. And I have pushed back. I’ve in editing books, I’ve had people write things I said, is that true? And they’re like, Well, I don’t remember. I don’t think it’s actually literally true. I’m like, sorry, you can put that in there. So yeah, I want people need to stand behind those things. I, I had a boss once. Really smart guy. And we were going to try and use a marketing tactic. That was a little shady. And he said, Well, here’s my principle. Would you feel okay, if everyone knew that you did this, if your mother knew that you were doing this? I was like, now I don’t really think I would. It’s like, well, then you better not do it. Because in the end, if you lie in a book, whether it’s about what you believe or about actual facts, you will get found out. I’ve just mentioned here. When people meet me in a social setting, sometimes they say oh, you’re a writer. Do you write fiction? And I say, not on purpose. Because I want everything I have in there to be true. If it’s not true, I made a mistake


Minter Dial


Fairpoint, like it? Yeah, well, you know, this idea of the scoundrel speaks to the idea of pushing the limits and making it more scary than it might actually be, for example, and, and finding that type of limit, when we have so much noise out there to break through, you sometimes need to push the limits of of truth, if you will, or create a story that’s a little bit bigger to scream louder.


Josh Bernoff


No, good. You’re not gonna get me to go there. What you need to do is, you know, basically, you believe something you think this is true. You need to gather evidence. So what does that evidence look like? Let’s say you find somebody who tried the thing that you want to do, and it worked out well for them. That’s, that’s evidence you tell their stories, a case study, or let’s say you find someone who did the opposite of what you suggested, and it turned out badly for them. Okay, that’s evidence to, or someone has done an academic study or another book has a passage that’s very credible, and it’s a it’s somebody that everybody believes like Seth Godin, or or Daniel Pink, yes, you quote those people. There’s always evidence. Now, it may be you may be wrong. In general, if you’re reading about things that everybody knows, that’s boring, nobody wants to read that. But you should at least be able to create a plausible case that you’re right. And if you don’t believe what you’re writing, it’s going to be very difficult to be convincing. I don’t know. I’m, there’s not that many authors that I know they’re scoundrels. There are none that I respect that are scoundrels. And so this idea you have of the scoundrel authors? I think, a lot rarer than you might think it is.


Minter Dial


Well, I especially think of the scoundrel marketer, who, you know, writes an email title that has nothing to do with the content or, you know, those type of pollutes our world.


Josh Bernoff


Yeah, well, I guess I would say that, it’s much easier to to be a lying Faker in a 280, word, email, or a 32nd television commercial than it is to be one in a 55,000 word business book. You won’t be able to keep it up. And not only that, you’ll publish it, everybody will pick apart your arguments and show your faker. And then you’ll be exposed to the world. So not so much a problem for authors.


Minter Dial


All right. Well, Josh, let’s look at the other side, the truth, because truth that says the honest version. And I have specific experience in writing a biography, where some of the truth hurt others, and so it was factually correct, but not pleasant for others to hear. You were talking before about what your mother wouldn’t want you to know about or was a lie, you know, fake. But what about truth?


Josh Bernoff


Well, I, I think painful truths need to be accompanied by some sort of a prescription for how to fix things. Now, if I was writing a book, that was a biography, maybe it’s necessary to describe those truths in a way that isn’t comfortable for everybody. But that’s a different kind of book, I’m mostly considering what you might call prescriptive books, books that identify a problem and suggest a solution. And they don’t tend to have that kind of ugliness in them. It’s interesting, the, there are often case studies about people who made mistakes. And occasionally you’ll get those people to go on the record, but usually not. And so you end up writing and saying, Well, once there was this person who tried this, and this is me, who should her name, name? Yeah. And that that anonymized case, happens, often, it’s still important that it is a real person. You’re not making it up. But but you know, there’s, there’s no point in attempting to humiliate them. Unless it’s been published somewhere else, and you can reference it, they’re probably going to have to be anonymous.


Minter Dial


Right? Otherwise liable. So it’s,


Josh Bernoff


Well, you’re still telling the truth about the terrible thing that they did, yeah,


Minter Dial


Right! We just need to be prepared to back it up. So”, obviously, we’re talking about nonfiction, which is why truth seems to be an appropriate sort of moniker to be talking about. And yet and you say, and I picked this one up and I have to find where I put the quote says, “business books are about people and stories”; it is a subtitle you have. Business books are about people and stories. Well, I say so is business.


Josh Bernoff


It’s true. Well, I’m just in terms of books, I’m just trying to get people to understand that they need to put humans stories in there. I, you know, I submitted my first book proposal to an agent when I was working at Forrester Research, and I was mostly writing research reports. And the agent came back and said, I can’t sell this. And I said, why not? And he said, business books are about people and stories. And there’s no people and stories in here. It reads like a research report. I was like, Oh, I can do that. So that was like a moment where I realized that we all understand that fiction books are about people and stories. And we all understand that business narratives like, you know, a biography of Elon Musk is going to be about the people he interacts and the stories about what happened. But somehow that goes out the window when people are writing a book, which is, you know, the 10 best content marketing techniques. Now, those those have to have people and stories in them too, in order to make them readable enough that that people don’t just give up and throw them aside.


Minter Dial


Well, it strikes me though, so Josh, I worked in large organization, and the stories that I can tell kind of can be weaved in two ways. One is, Oh, we did this great thing, you need to do the same thing. The other one is more likely? Well, it was we fucked up four times. It was a disaster, the fifth time and the sixth time we got lucky. And it worked out. So I can tell a story. Like fibbing standard story, or I can tell a story that makes me look good. Or I can tell you a story that makes you want to do the same thing. But it’s very rare. Especially if you’re an outside person, or a consultant or whatever, you actually know, the shenanigans, the challenges, the real shit that went down underneath the exercise you successfully put out.


Josh Bernoff


I think it may not be as rare as you think, perhaps not all of the detail. But the stories that tend to show up in business books, when they make sense when they’re most readable. It’s this company, tried this, this person tried these this, it didn’t work. They had this problem. They try this, it didn’t work. They were on the verge of giving up. And then they said, let’s, let’s try this thing that nobody’s ever tried before it worked. And then they had to figure out why and figure out how to measure it. You know, and one of the things I find most humorous is often you know, at the end of, of this, you tell this story, this dramatic story, it’s kind of got a downturn, and then a triumph at the end of it. And then you share it back with the the corporate people at that company just to get approval, to be able to get everything straight. And they’re like, you can’t say things, bad things happen. In the middle, for example, like, yeah, a hell of a story. Things were great. And then we tried some things, and then they were great after that, and that’s nobody wants to read that. That has no drama to it. We all have problems, and to be fair about them is crucially important. So yeah, I mean, every story’s got to have some frustration in it, or it isn’t realistic.


Minter Dial


That’s true. I mean, obviously, that’s the nature of storytelling. Yeah. And I I observe, though, that a lot of people that recount stories that haven’t actually lived through it. So your business cases you talk about, there’s sometimes a step of too far away to understand what actually made it happen, or what actually was the, the, the grain in the ointment that made it not work at the beginning, and the challenges of politics, and egos and all these other things, which are really hard to read a little abstract to construct in a book.


Josh Bernoff


Well, that’s another form of lying to smooth off all the rough edges and make everything sound like it’s just just really nice. But it, that’s not the way life is. And if if if you’re advising people who are in big companies, and you say, well, here’s what this person had to do to convince their boss about this, or, you know, these are the corporate were the corporate policies, and this is how they had to evade those corporate policies to prove that this would work. It sounds real, because everyone’s like, Oh, yeah, I know what that’s like.


Minter Dial


I only have the eyesight. Oh, well, that guy. Yeah.


Josh Bernoff


Yeah. It’s that sort of thing is part of what you need to describe. And let’s be fair about it. If all of your stories were, this person got tangled up in a bunch of corporate red tape, they tried a bunch of things that all failed because they didn’t have enough vision and because their company undermined them, and as a result they lived on happily ever after. Nobody wants to read that was, yes.


Minter Dial


All right. So Josh, you got this chance to read a book while you’re working at forest with Charlene. Yeah, and you have a whole thing. It’s a chapter on the employee, author. And you quotes a man who was kind of to blur my own book, Maurice Levy, who I know very well. And I think that his attitude seems very good. So writing, while being an employee in a company, on the one hand, there’s the boss of the employee, and there’s the employee, give us some parameters from making that successful.


Josh Bernoff


Okay, so most important rule is, don’t hide it. There’s so many problems that can happen from that. One is that, you know, you get to the end, and the company’s like, actually, all of the intellectual property you create here belongs to us by by contract. So you can’t publish that because it belongs to us. Well, that’s a lot of work wasted. And if you’re going to publish things that will be embarrassing to the company, or even, that they haven’t got any approval on, that’s not going to work out either. So basically, your objective as an employee is to say, this book will help the company. And usually it does, if you’re in, you know, if you’re in the part of the company that gives people marketing advice, and you’re writing a book about marketing, then the company will get known for that knowledge that you’re sharing. And you’ll get to go out and give speeches about it, which will spread the idea further. In fact, if you align your interests with a company, it can be very successful. I will tell you that at forest or where I co wrote three books, and edited two other ones, for other analysts, their public relations group was fantastic. Because they were always giving research information to reporters who loved hearing about it. So they were excited, the PR people were excited about promoting these books. And the result was really very effective. And that’s, that’s how you it’s hard to substitute for that I, I recently helped that a guy who was a head of Research Institute and Medical Research Institute, and his PR people had managed to get him interviewed and quoted in the New York Times in the Wall Street Journal, and I’m like, this is an awesome asset, to have these people working with you. The last thing I think people need to think about, though, is what happens when you leave the company. Because everybody eventually goes on to a new job. And at that point, there’s going to be some fighting about who has control of the intellectual property, which is something that has to get settled ahead of time. And you, you may need to have some kind of a sort of separation agreement about it. When the perfect example is groundswell that Charlie Lee and I worked on. About six months after the book was published, he left Forrester and part of what happened as a result of that is that I got all the speeches because she wasn’t there anymore. But she had to reconstruct the ideas with her own research completely separately because our agreement was the forester owned all of the intellectual property and she was cut off from that when when she left and started her own business. So that’s that you need to think about what will happen when you finally leave


Minter Dial


The divorce! Always good to think about the divorce before it’s unhappy. Yeah, well, I wanted to get into the divorce scene already with the coauthor in a moment, but what about as a boss you know, some guy I run up to “Hey, Josh,” you’re my boss… “I’d like to write a book about my experience in the company. I think I’m really great. I got a personal brand I really want to promote myself. Hey, Josh, you don’t have one but hey, stuff, it I want one.”


Josh Bernoff


I’m just imagining myself in the boy saying “Go screw yourself forget it!” But, you know, usually people who are in a position to write a book have have attained visibility already. So if you’re known as the expert on, let’s say, smart speakers or the expert on using AI, to do chatbots, or something like that, you already probably have visibility, you’ve given speeches at conferences, you represent your company. And it makes sense for them to continue to invest in you and your image. So the boss in that situation is not going to be be hit blindsided by this sort of thing is like an extension of, of what you’re already doing. And if you don’t have that kind of visibility, then you probably don’t have enough sort of grit, enough, enough real knowledge to be writing a book anyway.


Minter Dial


Well, my experience, I worked for L’Oreal for 16 years. And I think there’s also a European twist to the way that companies think about this thing. And the idea of an individual as an employee becoming a star, having their own URL, and all that it’s somewhat foreign to many types of management, I would say in a fear and control type of space.


Josh Bernoff


Yeah, I have to say that is a it is a much more of an American phenomenon. It doesn’t tend to happen in Asia, and from the European companies I’ve interacted with, it doesn’t happen so well there, either. And so I don’t really have a lot of experience advising people who work in companies in Europe and want to do this. But it certainly seems as if it would be a lot more challenging.


Minter Dial


Well, the the call I make is that as a boss, if you’re listening to this, you need to get with the program.


Josh Bernoff


Now, well,


Minter Dial


That’s my angle!


Josh Bernoff


Yeah. But culturally, there may be challenging. I mean, bosses have bosses too. So!


Minter Dial


Indeed they do. Yeah. What about? What about cowriting jobs? What about cowriting with somebody else? And how do you? How do you deal with that and thinking about the divorce at the end? And what are some of the parameters for choosing a co writer?


Josh Bernoff


Well, the most important thing is that you share a vision. Because you can’t write two separate books, you have to write the same book. And that vision could come from anywhere. I mean, in my book with Charlene Lee, it was basically her ideas, I was the writer and she was the person who had the strong ideas. By the time we got to the end, I had added my own ideas, but but that was where the vision came from, it came from her, you also need to have a clearer idea of how you will divide up the tasks. And it’s generally good if your skills are complementary, not similar. So while Charlene was a good writer, and has written a number of good books on her own, she just was so busy, she did not have time to, to do this. Whereas I had, I was a very good writer, and I had, I had made this arrangement to have the time to write it. So I was basically the writer, she was the idea person, that was a good way for us to divide up the tasks. You also might have say, the back half of the book is about how to do this in corporations. And the front half of the book is about how to do this in dealing with consumers. So maybe once an expert on one part, and once an expert on the other part. The The other interesting thing is how to get to a, you know how to how to get to, to a conclusion. So in the case of working with Charlene, I would write chapters, then she’d review them, except a few chapters she wrote, and then I would review them. And that was a relatively efficient process. But if, if you have, let’s say, two authors and an editor, and everyone’s reviewing what everyone else does it, you’d think that multiple people would be more efficient, but it’s actually less efficient in that situation, because of all the communication back and forth. So some sort of discipline about how you’re going to get to a conclusion helps. I gotta bring up one other thing here, which is that you need to design a plan and stick to it. So some authors are like, oh, I’ll just write bits and pieces and glue it together. And that is, it doesn’t tend to work well. But if you have a co author, it’s a disaster. So you need to be like, Okay, there’s gonna chapter three is gonna cover this. I’m gonna write that chapter five is going to cover this, you’re gonna write that. And, you know, here’s, here’s how the review process will go.


Minter Dial


I’ve only co written one book. And so my experience thinks about things like, well on the cover, are we going to go by alphabetical order, or Yeah,


Josh Bernoff


I’ve always important. Yeah,


Minter Dial


indeed, you know that that kind of stuff. And then on the back end, the promotion side? Oh, well, I’ve got, you know, I got hundreds of 1000s of followers, you’ve got only 10, you know, 1000s. So, you know, I’m going to, you know, be useful at that end and the negotiation of the whole spectrum.


Josh Bernoff


Ya know, that’s I, I can relate to that I’ve had many conversations like that. As far as whose name goes first. If it’s two people who are relatively unknown, then it you have to flip a coin or something. But in general, the most well known person is the person whose name goes first because their name is likely to sell the book,


Minter Dial


Brush off your ego and let it happen.


Josh Bernoff


Well, yeah, so I mean, you know, if I was going to, I mean, when Charlene and I wrote her name, when first after that book became a best seller, the next book, I can’t I collaborated with Ted Chandler. But I was a best selling author, and he wasn’t. So my name went first. So that’s, that’s plus to add


Minter Dial


Your name because it begins with a B. So, Josh, what are the I mean, I’ve written a few books, and I’m one of the areas I’ve always struggled with is the selling part. I mean, perhaps because I don’t have a fearful or enough greedy stroke, you might say, but PR agencies for book writers, what is the secret sauce for getting a good PR agency?


Josh Bernoff


Gosh, I wish there was a secret I could just reveal. You, they all promise, you know, I have these relationships with these journalists. And I can get you on 27 podcasts and whatever it happens to be, but but it’s a combination of legwork. And strategy. So the first question is can you actually develop a strategy together? And that’s, that’s helpful. I mean, when I do this, I’ve done this so many times, I have plenty of PR ideas myself, but many people don’t have that knowledge promotion. And then it’s a question of, you know, okay, you’re going to reach out to 216 podcasts. Well, how are you going to do that? And how are we going to line things up if if someone happens to agree to it? So it’s, it’s, I think, the I have this acronym, a sort of initialism, in the, in the book PQ RST, that that are five things for people to think about. P is positioning, who’s the book for and what is it? What problem does it solve? Q is the question, what’s the question that that actually is going to help that reader with? And then the RS and t are the tactics are is reach? How are you going to get reach SS spread? How are you going to get them to spread the idea after they’ve heard about it? And T is timing, because it was really helpful to take all of this activity and compress it into a couple of months around the book launch. So that people hear about it over and over again.


Minter Dial


And there’s there is, you know, no, first time second time, your your your when you launch, it’s new. I mean, I think that some bugs can maybe do a launch over one year. That’s my opinion. But basically, you’re better off when it’s hot and right.


Josh Bernoff


I would certainly agree with that. But one of the things I’m learning is that some of this outreach, takes a lot more months than I thought it would. So I mean, we’re doing we’re conducting this interview about two months after the book came out. But that’s what happens is some of the some of the things take a little bit longer, and you just have to keep keep at it keep keep having the persistence, to continue to seek out those opportunities.


Minter Dial


Yeah, at the end of the day, I mean, there’s the get on the bestseller list and have that sort of Spike sale. And then there’s the long tail, where you sort of you’re just trying to do something you’re having impact over time. And if someone says this and likes what they hear, maybe they will do something, they will spread the word Josh, hopefully you never know. Another area of interest rate was this idea of the audiobook. So you write about this, you basically suggest is best for you as the author to narrate. Except if


Josh Bernoff


Okay, if you have a heavy accent, it is difficult for people to understand shoot, don’t do that. If you’re not willing to spend what’s probably 12 or 14 hours in the studio. A lot of people just don’t have the time to do that. And I don’t know quite how to put this but if you’re boring you shouldn’t narrate an audio book because people are gonna have to listen to your voice for hours and hours and the benefits are, when a person is listening to an audio book by the author, even if it’s not perfect, right there. They’re not a trained actor, but they know which parts of the book are important and what’s dramatic, and what’s sad, and what’s exciting. And the ability to infuse that emotion into the audiobook makes the experience for the listener, I think a lot better. I also have heard of people who’ve had actors do their audiobooks. And it’s like, there’s a key word and they mispronounce it throughout the entire audio book. And it’s like, that is enough to make you one off yourself as


Minter Dial


I was shocked when one of my publishers just without even asking me just went and gave it to an actor without asking me whether I wanted to. And that’s the last question that I wanted to talk about. Well, actually, there’s ever an overlap there. But with regard to audio, and a few of my friends have talked about the AI components. So the possibility of robots writing the robots translating, and even, in one case, robots doing the audio book, this is a big no, no. Or do you think there’s a future?


Josh Bernoff


Gosh I hope there’s not!


Minter Dial


We are killing humanity.


Josh Bernoff


Now, I think it’s a question of these are creative activities. And humans are better at creative activities than robots are, that’s still true. And I think that’s going to be true forever. So if you think the job of the narrator, is to say all the words in the book, then it wouldn’t matter if it was an AI, NARRATOR or not. But sorry, that’s the American pronunciation narrator. But, but the that is going to never be able to match the emotion that the person has of actually explaining it, you don’t listen to that. And imagine the author on the other end talking to you and telling you what you need to do. So and that the same is sort of true about the writing, I recently surveyed a bunch of authors and found out that they’re using AI tools in a number of different ways to help to, you know, get strongly in arguments against their, their argument, or to summarize transcripts and stuff like that. But No self respecting author is going to actually let the ai ai write the book, because the results will be boring and witless. And nobody wants to read a boring witless book.


Minter Dial


Yeah, there’s also something deeply personal. Whenever I listen to an author narrated book, I feel like I get to know the author, really, you can you can hear that emotion, hearing it through an actor, that’s I got the words, I maybe get the emotion, but I don’t feel like I know the author if because I’m obviously going to pay attention. And somebody else you do write about Josh, which I enjoyed is this idea of trying to be the most interesting person. How does one become the most interesting person ie not boring?


Josh Bernoff


And he’d become an interesting person. I don’t know how you become an interesting person. I think I, you know, I used to, I’ll just tell an anecdote here, which I think will help, which is, when I was an analyst, you would, you would, I was happened to be an expert on the television industry. So I go into some big TV company like NBC or, or Comcast. And I’d give a presentation about my perspective on the market. And at the end of it, there was a portion that I got to know as stumped the analysts, because they’d you’d have 15 minutes at the end. And they’d say, how do you see HDTV affecting this? Or how does have you see this being different? Once there’s more people doing streaming? And you needed to have an answer, even though you hadn’t researched this live? Yes. That you couldn’t be at? Sometimes? I’d say I don’t know. But But in general, if you say that enough, they’re like, What the hell? Oh, you’re, you’re an expert. So how do you? How do you put yourself in that position? Well, as a researcher, you need to constantly be on the lookout for new things, new ideas, new concepts, new technologies, and be thinking well, what do I think about that? You needed to at least have some sort of a thought about that. And that is what made you an interesting person was because no matter what it was, you had been thinking about it and I’d go into these meetings and people would say, What do you think about this? Sometimes I’d say something. And they’d be like, No, that’s wrong. And here’s why it’s wrong. I’m like, Oh, see, I learned something there. Maybe this is different than I thought. Or I’d hear a question I hadn’t heard before. And I’d say, I don’t know. But I’ll find out. And then I’d come back two months later and say, well, we remember that question you asked, this is what I found out about that. So it’s a question of being constantly curious, and never giving up that quest for new information about what you’re supposed to be knowledgeable about.


Minter Dial


Yeah, I make it makes me think of critical thinking, deeper curiosity that just goes beyond skin level. And then general knowledge as well, the ability to connect dots and, and come up with interesting angles that aren’t so obvious and move away from mainstream.


Josh Bernoff


Well, I am a smartass. So what does that mean? It means that whatever you think, I think, well, how can I take that off in a different direction? And that, I think, is that you often find really interesting things. When you do that. Sometimes you come up with really dumb ideas, and people tell you that but but if you’re always going in the same direction that people expect you to, then why are you even there? Right? That’s what I could do. And you don’t you don’t need to be an AI?


Minter Dial


My answer to my own question, which is have self awareness, if you want to be an interesting person are where are you? Who are you? And if if those answers aren’t good, then then you’re going to have challenges becoming interesting. Anyway, that was my final thought. Last question. Josh, is a sort of a weedy answer. Are we the question with regard to writing books? Why is an index so important to you?


Josh Bernoff


Well, I’ll see if I can make this have some sort of cosmic significance for you love it, hey, smoke my joint. Okay. Okay. So, okay, so I am it. First of all, the reason that books still need indexes is because people want to have the opportunity to go back and say, Where was that part about the guy had at Unilever and what he did, or whatever it happens to be, and go find that stuff. I and I am the rarest of authors who actually is like, I love doing indexes, which, you know, that’s that’s like, having a foot fetish people like, really, really love doing indexes. Well, but I do. And the reason is, first of all, the books I work on are very modular. This piece is about this, this piece is about this. They’re not all jumbled together. So the way to do an index is to look at each portion and say, if I were looking for this piece, what would I be looking at up under? What concepts does this talk about? It’s about marketing, but it’s also about integrity. And it’s also about, about broadband. Okay, so so I’m going to put it in the index under all of those things. And the software will make sure that after you’ve said this section is about this, this section is about that ID, it puts that all together and puts the page numbers on it. So that’s just a technical element. But this idea of thinking of your book as like a database of lots of different concepts and ideas and people and stories, and figuring out how you could direct people who want looked up one of those things to where in the book, they would find it. I think that’s interesting. But again, it’s just a weird fetish.


Minter Dial


Well, sounds like the guy who reads encyclopedias or dictionaries while on the pot. I certainly love books that have indexes. And I always feel a little ashamed because I didn’t do an index on my last book. And I was like, I don’t have that. We need the worthiness or the nerdiness I think I need to hire a Josh Bernoff. Josh, been wonderful. Have you thank you so much for sharing your time and your passion for writing business books. I think it’s a very worthy adventure a very worthy need. And you’ve opened up my eyes to some of the things in this specifically this idea of creating fear and greed or feeding the fear or the greed at the beginning, which is going to and I will tell you off the record a after a how it specifically has changed the name of my new book. And thank you so how can people follow your work hire you for ghost writing? Check out your right through your writings. Buy your book.


Josh Bernoff


Okay, don’t try and hire me as a ghostwriter. I’m got more projects that are that I can handle. But I could do lots of these other things. If people the most important thing for people that want to get all of this stuff boiled down into one place is to check out the book called Build a better business book, you can get it on Amazon or you can go to my, my site at That’s B E R N O, F And that that will direct you to the places where you can get it. And if people are interested in following my ideas, I, in addition to the weirdness of doing indexes, I have another weirdness, which is that I publish a substantive blog post every weekday. So go to subscribe to the blog there and you’ll get a constant feed of, of stuff about books and authors and writing and content and, and media and so on. So that’s, that’s the way people can connect with me. And yeah, I mean, if people want to hire me, there’s a form there. But I’m mostly interested in helping people to find out about the things that that will help them as they consider becoming an author.


Minter Dial


A great credit to you, Josh, for your determination and your discipline. Pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much, Josh.


Josh Bernoff


Thanks. It’s really been great to be here.


Minter Dial


Thanks for having listened to this episode of the Minter Dialogue podcast. If you liked the show and if you’d like to support me, please consider a donation on You can also subscribe on your favorite podcast service. And, as ever, rating reviews are the real currency for podcasts. You’ll find the show notes with over 2000 and more blog posts on Check out my documentary film and four books, including my last one, “You Lead, How being yourself makes you a better leader.” And to finish here’s a song I wrote Stephanie Singer, A Convinced Man.


Minter Dial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.

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