Published Podcast Ep. 8 | Interview with John Blumberg, Author of Return on Integrity
In this episode of Published, we're switching things up a little. So far, we've been interviewing industry experts about specific areas of writing and publishing a book. We're excited to announce that we will be adding some author interviews into the mix. We'll focus in on one aspect of their publishing experience and provide advice for first-time authors.
In today’s episode, I’ll be speaking with John Blumberg, the author of Return on Integrity and Silent Alarm, about his overall goals for the book and his experience working with editors to polish his manuscript.
Q: John, welcome to Published! This is your second book with us, and it’s a little bit of a different approach than Silent Alarm. What was your goal in writing this book?
A: I think you’re right. It was a very different goal and a very different audience. This book was written specifically for the leader at the top, the CEO, the president, the executive director. Therefore it was a much more narrow audience than Silent Alarm. My goal with the book was to write it in such a way that it would scale the message and methodology of building a return on integrity. I tried to address what they needed to do to personally get ready for the experience. If you boil it down, my goal was to take the message and scale it. I tried to write it in a way that I wouldn’t need to be with them for them to have success with their return on integrity.
Q: Would you say that you’ve accomplished that goal?
A: Well, that’s a process. I think the one thing I would do differently, and I’ve focused on this lately, is break into that demographic. It’ never been a demographic I’m intimidated by, but it hasn’t been one, on a mass scale, that I’ve been necessarily connected to. Part of it was breaking into where CEOs gather, and what I didn’t anticipate when I wrote the book was that it wasn’t only about CEOs. With public companies, it was also about boards of directors. For instance, The National Association of Corporate Directors is now a connection for me, and I would have started getting very intentionally connected into all of that much earlier in the process. But I was so focused on writing the book and understanding the message, and building credibility with the message. If I could back it up, I would do both simultaneously.
Q: As you worked with your editor in developing the book, did that impact the process you used when working with clients?
A: I would say it did. When you get others focused on the message, and engaged in the message, it raises a lot of questions. When you have good editors, they ask thoughtful questions if they truly are engaging in the topic of the book. A lot of good things surfaced in the editing process, sometimes for clarification, sometimes for something I may have not addressed effectively. When you get executives really wrestling with this process, it’s almost like another editing process going on because you’re constantly evolving the topic and your knowledge of the topic as it gets applied in very specific situations. I thought the editors did a great job of being the devil’s advocate or really trying to think through the implications of the message in a practical way.
Q: Was the editorial process the most challenging part of the publishing process overall, or was it something else?
A: I would say that probably the most challenging thing is the blank computer screen when you start. I guess a lot of authors would say that! I actually love the editing process, so for me that wasn’t the challenge. Initially, Return on Integrity was going to be a one-year project. I think it turned out to be a four-year journey, and hopefully the results show the extra effort on that. Part of that was finding the time, and not just the time on the clock, but finding the time when you’re in your zone, when you can give everything to your writing. People who have never written have asked me what the magic is to writing a book, and I go back to that classic line, “Butt in seat.” I wrote a lot of this at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. It was a beautiful setting, but eventually I went away for two weeks to a writer’s house, really kind of a bed and breakfast for writers. I hunkered down for two weeks in Norwood, Virginia, and sat in this 150 year-old house trying to crank out the manuscript. The biggest challenge is focusing and dedicating the time to write the book. For me the fun was getting to collaborate with the editors.
Q: How did you feel when the editorial process was done? Were you confident that the book was in its best shape, or did you have the little voice that wonders if it could be a bit better?
A: When it went through the editorial process I was so excited to work with Jay, who worked with me on Silent Alarm in the Project Development phase. We had already developed a relationship and a trust in each other. I knew when I sent him the manuscript that it was really the beginning of the process. If you think what you’re sending an editor on the front end is the final product, first of all, you’re writing off their gift, and second of all, you are not engaging in a process that makes the book better. I thought, when I delivered it, that it was my best effort, but I knew that it was the beginning of the second phase of the process.
Q: There’s a huge difference when an author trusts their editor with the book. Can you describe that relationship to our listeners who may not have worked with an editor before?
JB: A lot of it is the attitude you go in with. I want to be on a team with them. I’m going to trust that they’re trying to do their very best. The same way that I had the gift to get the manuscript to where it was when I gave it to them, now it’s their chance to put their gift into it and make it even better. I was open to that. When Jay finished his part and I went on to work with some other editors, I was a little nervous. It almost mirrored not having worked with an editor before, but every single one of them gave it everything they had and really owned both the topic and the editing process. For me, you can either get in the way of that process, or you can collaborate with it. What I would also suggest is that when you do approach it that way, when there really is something important and you think they have it wrong, they listen very carefully because you haven’t been fighting every word. They know that you’re pushing back because of something very important, and they’ll listen to that.
Q: As we’ve said in one of our previous podcasts, the editor is really a proxy for the reader. They’re not there to beat up on the author with red marker on their manuscript. They really are a partner to the author. It’s important to go in with that mindset and trust them to do what they do.
A: If they’re not coming back with a lot of things, that could be an issue. I will say that, even when you want to collaborate, when you’re getting comments back from the editor, it’ a little tough. The worst part is when you have a situation where you thought you were very clear on a point, and they come back and ask what you meant, and you’re looking right at it, saying, “I have no idea what I meant by that.” It’s a humbling, honest moment. And I’d much rather it be the editor than the reader who is confused.
Q: What is your favorite line from your book?
A: I’d go to a quote that’s the most-recalled by people who have read it. The book, of course, is focused on digging for your core values, and the line says, “We don’t go running away from values, we go drifting away, and one day we wake up in a place that we never meant to be, drifting in a direction we never would have chosen.” I think that line really hits the reader. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite line going in, but it’s become clear to me that that’s the line most people resonate with. It should have been clear to me from my own life, we all drift. It’s a connection to truth, which is why so many people reflect on it. Probably the scariest thing I put in the book, and I thought I would throw up trying to write it, is that profit is not a core value. I compare profit to sleep. We all need sleep, but we don’t live to sleep. I believe that if profit is a core value, it will always trump all the other values. I tried to be clear, I am not naïve to the importance of profit, but I was also trying to speak the hard truth. I guess there’s a favorite line and a most terrifying line for me.
Simply put, John Blumberg is inspiring a movement amongst top leaders on seeing the intersection of personal and organization core values as the most impactful and untapped resource available to them as a leader. He is a companion to CEO’s who want to walk the journey of building value with core values.
In 1996, John left behind a career he loved … a career that had taken him from CPA to worldwide recruiting responsibilities at Arthur Andersen. From there, he followed his dream as a professional speaker to reach audiences in 10 countries on 3 continents. John has received the designation of Certified Speaking Professional from the National Speakers Association … a designation held by less than 10% of the members of the International Federation of Professional Speakers.
He is the author of Silent Alarm. It is a parable of hope for busy professionals! John is also author of GOOD to the CORE: Building Value with Values. AND … his newest book, ROI: Return on Integrity, just released this past year.
John lives in Naperville, IL with his wife, Cindy where they raised their three children … Ryan, Kelly and Julie.