Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dennis Perkins on Ernest Shackleton and the Essence of Leadership

The following is a guest post by Dennis Perkins, author of Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition, 2nd Edition with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy, about the leadership lessons of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

As someone who has studied and admired Ernest Shackleton as a leader, I was excited to be following in his footsteps in the Southern Ocean. My Antarctic expedition was not nearly as perilous as his, and I was spared the extreme deprivation and hardship he had encountered. Nonetheless, it was thrilling to travel the waters he had navigated in his 800 mile journey, and to stand on the remote, rocky beaches and islands he encountered almost 100 years ago. (Read about the  timeline of Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.)

One memorable part of the journey was landing on Elephant Island, an isolated, barren spot where the expedition had taken refuge. Though Elephant Island had little to offer Shackleton by way of food and shelter, it was a milestone for the haggard members of the Imperial trans-Antarctic expedition. This was the first time they had set foot on land since their departure from South Georgia Island 487 days before, and it was a welcome sight.

As we made our landing, I watched the small army of Chinstrap penguins waddling in single file down toward the water. I wondered if these penguins could be descendants of the ones that met Shackleton and his crew (which included 27 men, 69 dogs, and a cat called Mrs. Chippy) some 100 years ago. I stood on the rock-strewn, ice-covered shore, and saw our expedition ship in the distance. Then, suddenly, the calm scene was broken by a gale force wind that rocked me back on my feet. The snow, which had been falling gently, now turned into horizontal stripes streaking in front of me.

I shot a glance at the expedition leader, Howard, and watched as he pulled his wool cap as far down over his head as was humanly possible. The look on his face alarmed me. Up to that point, I had been soaking in the history of the island, relatively insulated from the immediate reality of where I was standing. When Howard muttered an expletive and shouted, “We’ve got to get back to the ship!” I realized I had to focus. My somewhat romantic musings about Antarctica evaporated as I jumped into the Zodiac for the trip back.

I lay flat on the deck of the Zodiac to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. But we still found ourselves flying off waves as we bounced from one mountain of foam to another. After what seemed like hours, but what was probably less than 30 minutes, we made it back to the ship. I scrambled back on board with the help of a Russian sailor, and stood on the deck gazing at Elephant Island with new eyes.

I had been there less than an hour, and was forced to make a hasty retreat. I would soon be able to find a warm spot to recover, and some decent food. But Shackleton’s men had been captives on the island for 128 days—and all this while they waited in suspense, wondering if Sir Ernest had made a successful journey to South Georgia Island, and if he would be able to execute their rescue. Each day, Frank Wild—left in charge of the “castaways”—would shout an encouraging “Lash up and stow, boys,” nurturing their hope that “The Boss” may return at any moment. Shackleton did return to bring the 22 castaways to safety. Thanks to his heroic open boat journey and to Wild’s patient leadership, their long ordeal was over.

While my brief visit to Elephant Island was memorable, the most moving moment occurred on South Georgia Island. After visiting Shackleton’s grave at the whaling station of Grytviken, I climbed to a high point overlooking Fortuna Bay. It was aboard a ship anchored in this picturesque inlet that Shackleton died. It was his last expedition, and he was accompanied by many who had endured the hardships of his earlier expedition.

I recall reading the moving words of Frank Worsley, Captain of the Endurance who wrote: “…when looking at Shackleton’s grave and the cairn which we, his comrades, erected to his memory on the wind-swept hill of South Georgia…it seemed to me that among all his achievements and triumphs…his one failure was the most glorious. By self-sacrifice and throwing his own life into the balance he saved every one of his men.”

Though Shackleton was not a perfect leader, I saw this simple memorial as a symbol of the essence of true leadership. (Find out why Shackleton was an exceptional leader.)  Shackleton was able to mobilize his comrades to accomplish the nearly impossible; his team had worked together to bring everyone safely home with honor and recognition; and, when “The Boss” passed on, those who knew Shackleton best thought of him with affection and loyalty. A leader could hardly ask for a better legacy.

Dennis N.T. Perkins, Ph.D., is Chief Executive Officer of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to effective leadership in demanding environments.  He lives in Madison, Connecticut, and is currently working on his next book,  Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race, to be published by AMACOM in the fall 2012. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.

Ask a Business Book Publicist, Part 2

Continuing the “Ask AMACOM” series, I’ll tackle some more questions frequently asked by authors about business book publicity.

I’d really like to get on national TV. But, people keep asking me if I have video. How important is it and how can I get some?

It’s very important. Producers of national TV shows have a job to do, which includes creating the best program they can that keeps the viewers they have, and attracts new ones. In order to be successful, a producer needs to know that a guest is going to be a compelling, informative, and if appropriate, fun, interview subject, and not a dud in front of the camera. An author that wants to be a guest on national TV needs to prove he or she will be great on the show. And you can do so by working your way towards that. Focus on local TV first. Get some experience in front of a camera, making relevant points that will keep an audience engaged. See if you can get files of the interviews, but don’t count on it. Make sure you embed the interview on the media section of your website if you can, and if you’re a good guest, you have the proof a producer needs to justify picking you for an interview over the many other qualified experts (with or without their own video).

Can you send me your list of media contacts you sent the book to so I can follow-up with them?

No. Media lists are proprietary information, and asking a publicist for a media list is an awful lot like asking Coke for its secret recipe. While some may argue that it’s no secret who covers a particular topic at a newspaper, I would counter that most publicists probably do work with media contacts that aren’t widely known (or listed in media databases), and that a highly targeted list of relevant media contacts culled from a database built on years of experience and relationship building is not common knowledge.

Additionally, becoming a successful and trusted media relations professional takes experience. So, when a publicist gives out media lists, he’s taking a big chance. What if the person who receives the list believes the key to publicity success is relentless follow-up, and drops the publicist’s name after sending five e-mails and making eight phone calls? Bye-bye relationship.

Also, think about it from the reporter’s point of view. Who would you rather hear from, a publicist who has no personal stake in a project, with whom you can ask hard questions or simply state that you didn’t like a book, or the author who naturally has a personal stake in their book? The media are people too, and they don’t enjoy dashing someone’s hopes, and they certainly don’t want to tell an author they disliked the author’s work.

It is though a good idea when an author has established relationships with the media for the author to reach out to those contacts. Just let your publicist know so there’s no accidental doubling up of efforts.

How can we leverage this review/article/blog post/radio interview/TV appearance?

Publicists are always looking at how coverage by the media can influence and land placements with other media. Sometimes it can, frequently it doesn’t. Media placements are great for providing evidence that others’ consider someone to be an authority in a particular subject. And especially with a nonfiction title, an author needs to be someone the media think is worth listening to.

The person who’s really best able to leverage an interview, story, blog post, or review is the author. My advice is to: tweet about it; post it to Facebook/LinkedIn/Google+; watch for comments if it’s a blog and respond appropriately (or even just thank the blogger); post information about the article or interview on your own blog; embed a video or audio player in the media section of the author website; and mention impressive publications, websites and radio/TV programs that have sought your input and opinions in your biography (just don’t confuse being interviewed by lots of media as evidence of your authority. It’s only evidence that others also think you’re an authority)

What else do you want to know about business book publicity? Post your questions in the comments, and I’ll answer as best I can, either in the comments or in a future blog post.

Earlier: Ask a Business Book Publicist, Part 1

Customer Service Providers: Share with Us Your War Stories

AMACOM author Rich Gallagher is taking aim at people’s worst customer nightmares in his new book What to Say in Your *Very Worst* Customer Service Situations, and he wants to hear from you.

Rich is the author of two AMACOM titles: What to Say to a Porcupine  and How to Tell Anyone Anything: Breakthrough Techniques for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work. In his new book, he will be exploring your most difficult customer situations using techniques that hostage negotiators, crisis counselors, psychotherapists, and others use in their very worst situations.

This is where you come in. Have you ever had someone completely lose their temper? Or make a ridiculously unrealistic demand? Worse yet, have you ever had to defuse a situation that was totally, utterly your fault (or your organization’s)? Here is a chance to show what positive skills you used to turn these situations around, and share your talents with a bigger audience.

Many people feel that tough customer situations are meant to simply be endured. Other lash back at customers who make their lives miserable. But the best of the best know how to put themselves in another person’s shoes, even with their most challenging customers, and turn crisis situations into productive dialogue. Are you one of them?

If we use your story, your name will be mentioned in the book’s acknowledgments, and your talents will be published for posterity. We’ll also send you a free copy of the book. Good luck!

Contact Rich Gallagher at gallagher(at) pointofcontactgroup(dot)com to participate.

Rich Gallagher MA, MFT heads Point of Contact Group, a training and development firm that has taught over 20,000 people what to say in their most difficult workplace situations. A former customer service executive and practicing psychotherapist, he is the author of eight books as well as the subject matter expert for AMA’s Communication Bootcamp program. His work has been featured in, BusinessWeek, Dale Carnegie Training, and numerous other media outlets.

Professor of Learning and Performance in the Workforce Education and Development program, Department of Learning and Performance Systems, at The Pennsylvania State University

Freelance Editors to the Rescue

Barrys Desk Manuscript PileThe following is a guest post by Senior Development Editor Barry Richardson on working with freelance editors.

I can’t work on every manuscript that comes in to AMACOM, so I rely on a pool of top-notch outside editors to help me out. These freelancers have a wide range of backgrounds, specialties, and interests. Most have worked at publishing companies, including two former co-workers and an ex-boss of mine. Four are published authors; two of those have helped author books for us. Taken as a group, they have tons of experience working on all types of books.

My freelancers can dissect a manuscript, see if it meets our expectations, identify the big and small problems, and suggest solutions that will improve the final book. If needed, they can edit the manuscripts themselves, handling everything from a quick touch-up to a complete overhaul. While I oversee their work and answer any questions that arise, I mostly give them a free hand to edit as they see fit.

When I get a manuscript, I first ask the acquisitions editor if there are any specific or general concerns she has. (This will be helpful to the outside editor.) I try to take a look at it myself, but this isn’t always possible.

If I’m going to send it out, I determine which of my freelancers is the best fit for this project—based on the type of book, previous books the freelancer has handled, and the production schedule. Equally important is availability; it does me no good to have the perfect person in mind to work on a manuscript, but he won’t be able to take it on for two months.

The freelance editor reviews the manuscript and then submits a Reader’s Report to me. (This takes about two weeks.) The Reader’s Report is an overview of the manuscript, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, often presenting a chapter-by-chapter review, and providing editorial suggestions. Based on this report, I decide what is to be done next with the manuscript. Basically, five things can happen to a manuscript that is sent out for a review:

1. Accepted. The freelancer gives a thumbs-up, says it is “ready to go,” and I put it into production right away. Or the report points out a few minor things that can be easily fixed by a copyeditor and I put the manuscript into production with specific notes on what should be done.

2. Almost ready. There may be some small problems identified by the freelance editor. These may be general suggestions (subheads need to be consistent) and/or specific notes (Page 86: “bending arbitration” should be “binding arbitration”). I’ll go through the manuscript, do the light editing recommended by the freelancer (along with anything I might spot), and then put the manuscript into production.

There are times when the outside editor says something more is needed from the author. This might be permission for a certain passage (hopefully, the author already has it) or suggesting the author add a glossary. I’ll put the manuscript into production while the author is tending to the additional requests.

3. Need for further development. Many manuscripts need further editorial work, ranging from fairly minor corrections that are just a bit too much to ask a copyeditor to handle to extensive rewriting, reorganizing, cutting material, etc. I ask the freelance editor who’s already familiar with the manuscript to do the work. Sometimes freelancers work directly with the author; sometimes they do the work themselves and the author sees the results down the road.

4. More author input required. Freelancers can’t always fix everything wrong with a manuscript. There could be material to be revised that’s endemic to the author’s field of expertise. Or there might be pertinent topics that seem to be missing, which only the author can provide. (This book needs more in-depth statistics, examples, and sources of information to support the author’s assertions and more prescriptive examples and case studies.) In cases like this, the freelancer must work directly with the author in order to obtain the information needed.

One particularly tricky situation arises when there are two (or more) authors. If one author is a good writer and the other isn’t as good, or one has a reader-friendly style and the other has an academic style, it is jarring. In that case, the freelancer has to fix the bad while leaving the good. (We call this “reconciling the voice.”) The authors can’t be expected to fix this problem on their own. The “bad” one may resent the “good” one and not accept his or her help.

5. Combination of author input and development help. When this is done right, it can be the best of both worlds because the editorial process keeps moving along on two fronts at the same time. Freelancers start working on the things they can handle while authors are asked for material only they can provide. By the time the manuscript goes into production, all (or most) of the editorial issues will have been dealt with already and, as a result, things should progress more smoothly.

All in all, my freelance editors make my job easier by ensuring that each manuscript gets the close attention it deserves and that our book projects stay on or close to schedule.

Note: The term “free-lance” was first used by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe to describe a “medieval mercenary warrior” or “free-lance” (indicating that the lance is not sworn to any lord’s services, not that the lance is available free of charge).

Barry Richardson is a Senior Development Editor at AMACOM. Our in-house “book doctor,” he helps improve manuscripts while keeping the author’s voice and expertise–whether it’s heavy-duty editing, reorganization, rewriting, or coaching authors. Prior to joining AMACOM, he worked for 25 years at Prentice Hall (P-H). Visit our website for freelance development inquiries.

As a Book Doctor I Will Not Harm Your Book, I Will Only Make It Better

List of Business Book Publisher Twitter Accounts

Do you follow business, books, or business books and authors? Why not follow these traditional, non-specialized, non-academic, trade business-specific book publishers and imprints on Twitter?

AMACOM Books (@AMACOMBooks): Independent non-fiction business book publisher; division of the American Management Association. Tweeting on business, business books, and the book business.

Berrett-Koehler (@BKpub): We publish books about business and current affairs. @cincindypat and @sheekat are tweeting here about books, publishing, and marketing advice for new authors

Career Press Inc. (@CareerPressInc): Career Press boasts an active, strong-selling list of titles spanning careers, personal finance, business, management, HR, and self-help books Nonfiction titles

FT Press (@FTPress): FT Press publishes content in the areas of Business, Science, Finance & Investing, Sales & Marketing, Social Media, Leadership, Management & Strategy and HR.

Harper Business (@HarperBusiness):

Harvard Biz Review (@HarvardBiz): The latest Harvard Business Review blog posts, Management Tips of the Day, Daily Stats, and more.

Jossey-Bass Business (@JosseyBassBiz): Jossey-Bass, imprint of Wiley, publishes the top names in business, leadership, and management. ttp://

McGraw-Hill Business (@MHBusiness): Global publishers of content for professionals in finance, marketing, six sigma, quality and management.

Portfolio Books (@portfoliobooks): A non-fiction publishing imprint of Penguin Group (USA) providing updates on books, business books, and the business of books

Wily Business Books (@WileyBiz): Daily updates on Wiley’s business books, authors, and events + industry news. Wiley is a leading global publisher of books/journals/textbooks/digital content.

Tweet you later!