Amy Newmark is the publisher, editor, and author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. She’s the author of the new, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias: 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping, and Compassion.” Newmark tells us about the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” business model and how she sells so many books. She shares the marketing strategies she utilizes. Newmark then explains how people with Alzheimer’s and dementias live more productive lives. She gives tips on how their caretakers cope. Newmark then discusses a story about how a taxi driver ‘angel’ saved a drug addict from himself. She then advises how fathers can deal with getting laid off.
Amy Newmark has been a writer, speaker, financial analyst and business executive in the worlds of finance and telecommunications for over thirty years. Today she is publisher, co-author and editor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. She has edited or co-authored the last 100+ books in the series.
Amy graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University where she majored in Portuguese and minored in French. As the culmination of her Portuguese studies, she wrote a thesis about popular, spoken-word poetry in Brazil. She traveled throughout Brazil’s impoverished northeast region, meeting with poets and writer and collecting their stories as she studied whether their popular form of expression would survive the country’s modernization.
Amy joined the commercial sector while a senior at Harvard, editing a newsletter about opportunities to sell telecom equipment in Brazil. This work led to a new passion for the telecommunications. She became a consultant to the industry at the Gartner Group, where she wrote several books on telecommunications and ran the telecommunications services practice. Amy then moved to Wall Street in 1981, where she spent many years writing and speaking about telecommunications and information services, providing her stock picks to mutual funds and hedge fund clients.
Amy ran her own hedge fund from 1993 to 1995, specializing in telecommunications and technology companies, and then joined the original management team of Winstar Communications, Inc. where she served as executive vice president of strategic planning for two years. She left Winstar in 1997 and spent the next ten years serving on the boards of several public companies in telecommunications and technology.
Amy stepped in as publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul in 2008. She is delighted to have come full circle in her writing career – from collecting poetry “from the people” in Brazil as a 20-year-old to, 30 years later, collecting stories and poems “from the people” for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Amy works daily with her husband, Bill Rouhana, CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She and Bill are the proud parents of four grown children.
Visit Chicken Soup for the Soul at www.chickensoup.com
Narrator: Speakers, publishers, consultants, coaches, and infomarketers unite. The Speaking of Wealth Show is your road map to success and significance. Learn the latest tools, technologies and tactics to get more bookings, sell more products and attract more clients. If you’re looking to increase your direct response sales, create a big time personal brand, and become the go to guru, the Speaking of Wealth Show is for you. Here is your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Speaking of Wealth Show. This is your host, Jason Hartman, where we discuss profit strategies for speakers, publishers, authors, consultants, coaches, info marketers, and just go over a whole bunch of exciting things that you can use to increase your business, to make your business more successful and more and more passive and more and more automated and more and more scalable. So we will be back with a great interview. Be sure to visit us at SpeakingofWealth.com. You can take advantage of our blog, subscribe to the RSS feed, and many other resources for free and SpeakingofWealth.com and we will be back with a great interview for you in less than 60 seconds.
Start of Interview with Amy Newmark
Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Amy Newmark to the show. She is publisher, editor, and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. And I think you’ll find her story to be more than fascinating. So I’m going to let her tell it rather than me telling it. Amy, welcome. How are you?
Amy Newmark: I’m good. I’m glad to be on your show. This is my favorite topic.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, well we’re glad to have you and of course as I mentioned to you before we started, we did have Jack Canfield, your predecessor, on the show before. And most people when they think of Chicken Soup, they still think of Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, but you bought the company from them right?
Amy Newmark: We did. Jack and Mark had really successful careers as motivational speakers, and they were writing a lot of books that weren’t Chicken Soup for the Soul books. And so about seven years ago we heard that they were looking to sell. And my husband and I were looking for something new to do; we started working with a business partner who knew Jack and Mark very well and he was the one who told us they wanted to sell and helped make it happen. My husband knew how to raise the money to do it, because this was back in 2007 when all the banks were failing, when Lehman Brothers went under… it was a terrible time. It was really impossible to raise financing.
But we had some really good friends on Wall St. because of the many decades we had spent in the business community. And so on April 4th 2008, we’d just had our six year anniversary, we bought the company from Jack and Mark. It was probably one of the only LBOs done in America that year because it was such a tough year.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, leverage buy outs.
Amy Newmark: And of course, little did we know, we were buying a book business on the eve of the biggest decline in publishing sales in history. We were going into that recession that almost turned into a depression. It’s hard to remember now how bad it was, but it was really, really bad in 2008, 2009, 2010. We’re all feeling better now, but those were tough times. And so we’ve made it through. We actually managed to keep our book sales steady every year, which is the new up in publishing. Flat is the new up.
Jason Hartman: Flat is amazing in this market where publishing is just really changing. Every industry has changed with the internet, but publishing is struggling to find its way. I think mainstream book publishers, they don’t know exactly what to do or who they are. It’s hard to find, right?
Amy Newmark: Well, we know who we are. We know we’re a brand. And we’re a brand that stands for happiness and inspiration and wellness. And we’re also a brand that happens to be the world’s favorite storyteller.
Jason Hartman: Right. And that’s the Chicken Soup brand you’re talking about.
Amy Newmark: That’s the brand. Chicken Soup for the Soul. We are a very well loved, trusted brand and we like to say that I’m our chief sensibility officer because I make sure that everything we do is top notch and Chicken Soupy. That’s what we call it: Chicken Soupy. We’ve made sure that we’ve carried on the legacy of Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. And we’ve put out fabulous books, and I think that’s why we’ve done so well in publishing despite what’s happened over all. Our books are also given as gifts, and that doesn’t go away.
I’ve made our books very topical. One of the first things that I did when I came in as publisher, was I changed the format of our titles. They used to be Chicken Soup for the (Something) Soul, and that was getting limiting. And now, it’s Chicken Soup for the Soul and then there’s a title. So our best sellers since I’ve been publisher is called Think Positive. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive. Another best seller was Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among us. Another was Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven. Today we put out Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s. We do a lot of interesting topics, so it’s not just stories about moms and kids and dogs and cats, although we do extremely well with those also.
So we’ve made the brand more relevant. I also redesigned the look of our covers, I redesigned our interiors, and I’ve made the brand fresher, more relevant, it’s more inclusive now. We have contributors from all walks of life. We’re very open to including everyone in our books. The only thing that we don’t tolerate is intolerance. We will not put in any stories where people are acting intolerant at anybody. That is not allowed. So the books have been refreshed dramatically, and I’ve seen a big increase in interest in our books.
One of the metrics that I can point to is the number of stories submitted by writers who want to appear in our books. And when we started out back in 2008, we were only getting 500 submissions at most, a thousand submissions to go in a book. As people saw the quality of the books and got excited again about what Chicken Soup for the Soul books were about, and how they could expose writers to readers and how great they are, our number of submissions started to soar. And now even on specialized topics like living with Alzheimer’s, we got thousands of submissions for only 101 slots in the book.
Jason Hartman: Is every book by the way… I want to talk to you about formatting and then let’s talk about what maybe authors and people who just want to contribute a story could do to be involved and engaged with your company. But formatting wise, is it still the same in terms of being a collection of short stories?
Amy Newmark: Yes. I would say that it’s probably one of the first examples of crowd sourcing.
Jason Hartman: You’re right, yeah it is.
Amy Newmark: And then you know that word everybody loves today: curated content. We are the ultimate example of crowd sourcing and then extreme curating. Because we’re taking thousands of submissions, narrowing them down to only 101 that make it into the book, and then I edit like crazy. Some stories come in in great shape and don’t need that much editing. Other stories, there’s a great plot in there, a great message in there, but I’ll rewrite half the stories. We always put the name of the writer on the stories so when you open one of the books, every story is credited to the person who submitted that story. They get paid. We’re known as the highest paying anthology publisher to freelancers. We pay them $200 a story plus ten free copies of the book. And we let them keep the copyrights to their stories. So we’re the biggest payers and we treat them the best.
Jason Hartman: Well that’s great. So let’s talk about that. So how many storied per book? Did you say 101?
Amy Newmark: 101, and that’s left over from Jack and Mark who said let’s give them 100 and then 1 more to set them on their path. So it’s always 101.
Jason Hartman: So you collect 101 stories on a given topic, and what is your last book? Is it the Alzheimer’s book?
Amy Newmark: That’s the one that came out April 22, yep. And the next one after this is called Home Sweet Home, and then we’re doing another special topic in June, which is called Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. Now that’s very specialized.
Jason Hartman: Sure it is. So 101 stories, you’ve got 101 authors in there… and what do they generally make in terms of payment?
Amy Newmark: They get $200 for a story that is a thousand or 12 hundred words. I’m told that that’s a very good rate of payment for freelancers. Plus we give them ten free copies of the book, and the books retail for $14.95 each and many you can get them on Amazon for 12 or 13 dollars. So they’re really making more than $300 for their story. And we didn’t buy the story from them; we just bought the right to put it in our book and use it in Chicken Soup for the Soul products. But they still own their story. So other places, you’re getting less money and you’re selling your story outright. Our people still own their stories.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, fantastic. Okay, so that’s a change to the business model right?
Amy Newmark: Chicken Soup for the Soul was always good about paying it’s writers. So all of that is the same as Chicken Soup for the Soul used to be. I increased the number of books we give people, but other than that I kept going the same way. I think what has changed in addition to the books being more relevant, being refreshed, the other thing that’s changed is that we have moved beyond the bookstore and we’re in a lot of other product areas now in a very major way.
So we have a line of dog food and cat food that is super high quality, and sold in all of these pet specialty stores. A lot of breeders recommend our food to people who are buying dogs from them. My sister in law was told by her breeder that she could only take her labradoodle home if she promised to feed her dog Chicken Soup for the Soul puppy food for the first year. The breeder didn’t know about me, so that just happened. We also have a line of food for people now. And that line of food is rolling out across the country, and it’s sold on Amazon. And again it’s really high quality but at regular prices. So we have that. Our chef for that line of food is the former executive chef for the Waldorf Astoria. And he just makes the recipes at home, and then figures out how to make them on a larger scale for our products. So they’re really good.
We also are making a major motion picture with Alcon. Alcon is the studio that is behind The Blindside and many other big movies. They distribute for Warner Brothers. Our producer is Jordan Kerner who produced The Smurfs and George of the Jungle and a lot of big films. And then we have a daily talk show in development. We have a number of syndicators now bidding to carry that daily talk show. So we’ve done a lot of exciting things for the Chicken Soup for the Soul name during the 6 years that we’ve owned it.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, you really are expanding the franchise of it. It’s amazing what you’re doing. I’m looking on Amazon as we’re talking and I’m looking at the great reviews for the pet food and so forth, and now I’m at the people food. So you can have Chicken Soup for the Soul minestrone soup.
Amy Newmark: Yes. We even have vegetarian products. They don’t have to have chicken in them. And the funny thing is that the, I think it was the USDA, they didn’t like the fact that some products had the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name on them but then they didn’t contain chicken. So they said you have to put on those products that they don’t contain chicken. So you’ll see a lot of them say they don’t contain chicken.
Jason Hartman: Tell them they’ve got a whole supermarket full of misleading labels to attack before the attack you new guys.
Amy Newmark: I don’t know. I don’t get it. Like, does bumblebee tuna have bumble bees in it?
Jason Hartman: Yeah, well that’s a good point. Yeah. Does Chicken of the Sea tuna have chicken in it?
Amy Newmark: Exactly. Right? Exactly. But anyway, we don’t mind. Now it’s kind of funny. We just put on all the products that don’t contain chicken, we warn people that they don’t contain chicken.
Jason Hartman: Okay good. So why food though? I guess Chicken Soup, that’s food and that’s the title, but I would think you’d be focusing more on the information products publishing aspect. Food… that seems like a little bit of a brand extension there.
Amy Newmark: Well when we bought the company, the dog food and cat food already existed through a [00:13:45] and was doing extremely well. And so we knew that people felt very comfortable with our brand being on a food that they were serving to someone they really loved: their dog or their cat. So clearly, we were in their kitchens already. A number of people came to us over the years and said you’ve got to get into the food business. And it took us a while. We only got into the business last year, but we had been working on it for a few years, trying to get it right, work with the right people, getting Chef John Doherty from the Waldorf Astoria, that was very good for us because he cooks the food that we want to sell to people.
So we had to get it right, but we’d been asked for years to do it. So it seemed obvious to us that we should go into the food business. We have one of the best food brand names that you could think of that wasn’t selling food. And the food has been very well received; we keep adding new grocery store chains. The food is delicious. It’s really delicious and it’s super quality at mass market prices. It’s a very good combination. So I think it makes sense. So I think it makes sense. Now, we are also getting into digital content, as you said. We just relaunched our website. So we have a brand new website; it’s still in beta. And there’s features that are missing from it at this point, but it’s going to take all of our eBooks, and make them searchable so that people can go and search for stories that are on topic for them.
Let’s say somebody is getting divorced, and they want some emotional support. They can go on our website, search our books for stories about divorce, not just our books that are specifically about divorce which was actually written by Patti Hansen after she and Mark Victor Hansen had their friendly divorce. And this woman could go on and look up divorce, and read stories about divorce, and women recovering from divorce or men recovering from divorce in all of our books. So that’s going to be a wonderful resource for people, being able to search through all of our eBooks in our website. And there are a lot of other great fun features in our website as well. So, you’re right. The digital thing is an obvious area for us to go into, and that’s happening too as a result of this brand new website.
Jason Hartman: You know what? It seems like you’ve just got the ultimate collection of stories. There’s 101 stories in every book, and they’re about 12 hundred words long. By the way, I did a little math while you were talking here, multi-tasking, and you talked about how the authors of the stories are not even giving up the rights; they still own their copyright, they can still publish the story elsewhere I assume…
Amy Newmark: Absolutely and they can take my edited version of their story and they have the copyright on the story with my edit, so they’re free to take that version.
Jason Hartman: Right, that’s good. So what’s interesting about it is that you’re paying over 16 cents a word on average, and that’s a pretty good rate like you said, and then they get the other marketing and that’s a good deal. But by the same token, if you do 101 times $200, plus of course you’ve got free books and other marketing expenses and support in there. But you’re paying about 20 thousand dollars per book just for the authors. But you say one of your authors… is there sort of a chief author that assimilates those stories, or do you do all of that for each book?
Amy Newmark: I have a number of really wonderful editors who I work with.
Jason Hartman: Who’s name goes on the book cover?
Amy Newmark: Well we’ve had Jack and Mark on there for years, although that’s gradually stopping as they put other people on. But most of our books are done in house. It’s mostly my really fabulous team, two of whom came with the company; they came with the old Chicken Soup for the Soul. And then the rest are new people I brought in. And they read the thousands of stories that are submitted, and we talk constantly about what they’re finding, what the themes of the books should be. We don’t go into any book with preconceived notions. We let the stories tell us what’s important to people and we shape the book based on what we’re getting in terms of submissions.
And then they’ll narrow it down to maybe 200 candidates, then I’ll go in and choose the 101 from those 200 finalists. And then I’ll go in and edit the stories. So I actually do edit every word of every book that we publish. Everything.
Jason Hartman: And you’ve published 100 books or so since you bought the company.
Amy Newmark: Yeah, I know. I’m insane. I think I’m crazy; I know that. I’m so crazy. Today somebody asked me if I would do an interview on our new Alzheimer’s book at 7 in the morning on a Saturday a couple of Saturdays from now, and I’m thinking there’s something wrong with that date… besides the fact that it’s a Saturday morning at 7 which is pretty painful to do a radio interview. And then I realized oh, my son’s getting married that day! And then I said well, should I do the interview anyway? And I said no, I guess not. But I can’t even believe that I was thinking that maybe I should do the interview anyway. That’s ridiculous. We’re all a little crazy.
Jason Hartman: Okay, good. What’s interesting is that it seems as though there is another big brand extension opportunity here for you. And that’s in the area of counseling or coaching. You’ve assembled all of these people that have all of this experience and these stories… shouldn’t there be some sort of a coaching or counseling exchange, where people could call in and maybe talk to the author and get deeper advice, or for the authors that wanted to be involved… it just seems like an interesting…
Amy Newmark: We’ve talked about that. We’re going to have forums on our website. So that’s a step in that direction. And we’ll have moderators on the forums. Btu we have talked about that other area, but we’re just so busy. We’re so incredibly busy right now.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, sure. I understand.
Amy Newmark: We forgo some opportunities because the opportunities we are pursuing, we’re trying to do them right. And that means not spreading ourselves too thin.
Jason Hartman: That’s the rule. Focus, focus, focus. Well, is there any advice you want to give listeners who would be interested in writing or being involved with one of the Chicken Soup books and engaging with your company?
Amy Newmark: They should go on our website, which is ChickenSoup.com and click on Submit your Story, which is in the bottom part of the home page. And that will take them to a section where they’ll see guidelines for what makes a good Chicken Soup story, and they’ll also see some of the topics that we’re collecting stories on right now. And those may or may not turn into books. And the best way to figure out how to write for us is to read one of our existing books and get a sense of what makes a good story. And it’s interesting, people who have written stories for us have ended up turning into authors who appear on the front of the book with me.
For example, our Traumatic Brain Injury book that’s coming out in June with Dr. Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, she submitted stories to a few of our books and I liked her work. And then she said I’d really like to do a book with you on TBIs, and it’s a very important topic now. There are millions of people every year in the United States…
Jason Hartman: TBIs are traumatic brain injuries.
Amy Newmark: Yeah, they suffer traumatic brain injuries and we have all these soldiers suffering with traumatic brain injuries…
Jason Hartman: Right. That’s exactly where my mind went to: veterans.
Amy Newmark: Yeah, so we actually got a forward from Lee Woodruff for that book because of course, she lived through her husband Bob Woodruff who was embedded in the Iraqi army and had a TBI there. So anyway, that’s a great example of somebody who just submitted stories – we didn’t even know here. We liked her work, she started talking to us. We love talking to our story contributors. We get to know them very well.
So a number of them have started out being published one story at a time by us and have ended up being on the front of a book. And that opportunity still exists to be on the front of a book with me and to help me shape one of these books. So that happens, and other people who have written for us, it has improved their writer’s resume so much that they’ve gone on to get a collection of their essays published by a big house, or get a novel they’ve been working on published. But we have dozens of people who have told us that writing stories for us led to them getting a publishing contract for their own books.
Jason Hartman: That’s what I wanted to ask you was what does it mean to the story author’s career? And I assume a lot of the people who submit stories and even get picked or get featured in the books, they’re not authors, they don’t necessarily have any intention of becoming an author… would that be a correct assumption?
Amy Newmark: We have people like that who are just thrilled to ever be published and then we will just get out of the blue, a story from a bestselling author and we will be shocked and so happy that these stories just appear from New York Times Bestselling novelists. They like being in our books.
Jason Hartman: And they get the same $200 everybody else gets.
Amy Newmark: Everyone gets $200. I remember, we have a story from Jodi Picoult. She got $200. Brad Meltzer got $200. Everybody gets $200.
Jason Hartman: JK Rowling, $200.
Amy Newmark: They don’t come to us for the money. They come to us because it’s fun to be in one of our books. They like our books, and it exposes them to new readers. I know for a fact that a number of our regular readers started buying Brad Meltzer books after they saw one of his stories in our Thanks Mom book.
Jason Hartman: I’m also curious how much cross over there is between the different Chicken Soup books. For example, do you have people that submit a story in one of the books and then a totally different book on a totally different topic that you’ve published that are sort of cross platform contributors?
Amy Newmark: Absolutely. We have a lot of people like that. We have people who will get 5 stories, 8 stories published over the course of a year with us and they’ll be in several different books. And then it’s funny, sometimes I’ll see one of our regulars writing for a topic that really is not in his or her bailiwick and I’ll just laugh. I’ll say nice try but no. But most people really have pretty diverse and interesting lives, and are capable of writing excellent stories on a variety of topics.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Very interesting. And are all of the stories… they have to be stories of one’s personal experience, right?
Amy Newmark: They have to be true. They have to be written in the first person, and we are very careful about that. We fact check and we really evaluate the stories to make sure that they’re personal stories. And sometimes people will get their facts wrong just because people’s memories are not perfect. So we’ll get back to somebody and we’ll say look, you said you were six when this first happened and then you were 16 later but then only 8 years had passed, that president wasn’t the president when you said he was… we fact check everything. People are blown away by that.
Jason Hartman: I bet they are. Well this has been a fascinating talk. What an incredible business model. And like you said, really one of the first examples of crowd sourcing. Everybody’s talking about crowd sourcing nowadays, and Chicken Soup was doing it a long, long time ago. When did Mark and Jack actually start the franchise? It was back in the 90s somewhere, right?
Amy Newmark: It was 1993. The first book came out… I think they only printed a couple thousand copies. They were selling the book from the trunk of their car and they were making speeches and it just took off.
Jason Hartman: 38 rejection letters… we’ve all heard the story.
Amy Newmark: Oh my gosh, yes. Dozens of rejection letters. They ended up selling 8 million copies of that original book just in the US and Canada. It was unbelievable and then it was a very, very big franchise for many years. Then it kind of slipped, and now it’s on the upswing again. And we celebrate our 21st anniversary this June. So it’s been 21 years now.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. How many total book sales have there been? Last count, many years ago… I was listening to Mark and Jack do one of their author’s seminars and they were saying they were up around 250 million books for the whole franchise. I think that was the number. What’s the number now?
Amy Newmark: Well, we know it’s well over a hundred million in the US and Canada. We don’t have an exact count because there were many years where we didn’t really get information on how many were selling, but we know it’s well over 100 million for the US and Canada, and we believe it’s about 500 million worldwide.
Jason Hartman: Wow. Half a billion. People listen to that. Half a billion books. How many copies has the Bible sold?
Amy Newmark: I have news for you though. We read an article in the Chinese press that said that one of our books recently sold 300 million copies in China. We don’t know how that happened, and I didn’t include that.
Jason Hartman: Wow. That’s amazing.
Amy Newmark: So we don’t really know how many of our books have sold worldwide. We just know it’s a huge number.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, it’s a giant number. It really is. Well, very interesting. Give out the website one more time, Amy.
Amy Newmark: Sure. It’s ChickenSoup.com, and now that we have our new beta website that’s super cool, please go and have fun with it. We have a really cool thing on our home page called a Wordle where we take these shapes and then we took all these different phrases from Chicken Soup for the Soul books and used the phrases to create these images. When you scroll over them with your cursor you see what I’m talking about.
Jason Hartman: When you hover over them, yeah I saw it. It’s really neat. Yeah, there’s a shopping bag and you scroll over that and the words come up…
Amy Newmark: And it’s not just words. It’s actual phrases from our stories.
Jason Hartman: From the books. Yeah. Fantastic. well, Amy Newmark thank you for sharing this great story and congratulations on your continued success in this new phase of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Amy Newmark: Thank you very much, I really enjoyed talking to you.
Narrator: Have you listened to the Creating Wealth series? I mean from the beginning. If not, you can go head and get book one, that’s shows 1-20, in digital download. These are advanced strategies for wealth creation. For more information, go to JasonHartman.com.
Narrator: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights, and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.
Transcribed by Ralph
The Speaking of Wealth Team