Our Origin Story
By Tucker Max
Scribe Co-Founder and 4x
NYTimes Bestselling Author
It all started with a simple question from Melissa Gonzalez.
“I want to author a book, but don’t have the time to write it and the normal publishing process is too frustrating. Is there another way?”
Because I’d written four #1 New York Times Best Sellers, I was asked some version of that question on a nearly daily basis. To be honest, I often answered in a disdainful tone, sneering at people who seemed to presume books were something they could just get without having to put in the time.
I’d tell them sitting down to write a book is not an optional part of the process—in fact, it’s the very point of it. After all, you can’t have something (a book) without doing the work necessary to create (write) it.
“Everyone wants to be a star, but no one wants to do the work,” I would snidely remark.
Melissa Gonzalez was different. As founder of The Lionesque Group, she was a successful entrepreneur who’d achieved incredible things—all of which required hard work and commitment.
When I gave my usual, canned response to Melissa, she rolled her eyes and interrupted:
Melissa: “Hold on. You’re an entrepreneur, right?”
Me: “Yeah, of course.”
Melissa: “I’m an entrepreneur, too, and the most important thing I do is solve problems. Can you solve my problem or are you just going to lecture me about hard work?”
Melissa was straight up calling me out and she was right. I was ignoring a problem I was in a unique position to solve. Too flustered in the moment to come up with a solution, I told her I would be in touch.
Because I was so clearly and embarrassingly wrong, I obsessed over her problem for weeks. I kept coming back to one simple truth: there is no way to write a book without putting in the time to actually write it. Writing is essential to the process. That’s why it’s called writing a book.
Eventually I gave up on finding a solution. Of course, as soon as I’d stopped obsessing about it, the solution struck me like a bolt of lightning a few days later.
Wait. Is writing really a necessary part of creating books? Or is there a way to get Melissa’s ideas out of her head and into a book without her doing the actual writing?
Of course there is. Talking!
In fact, talking is how Socrates, Jesus, Buddha and Malcolm X all got their words into books.
Can this work for Melissa, too? Of course it can!
I refined the idea in my head, and then called Melissa:
Me: “What if I told you that I can take you from an idea to a professionally published, completely finished book for sale on Amazon and everywhere else, and all you have to do is talk?”
Melissa: “I’d say that sounds great. I want to do it but it has to be my words and my ideas.”
My next problem was that I didn’t yet have a precise process to follow and, quite honestly, I wasn’t sure my idea was going to work. But like Melissa said, entrepreneurship is about solving problems.
I brought Zach Obront, a former employee of mine, into the conversation and the three of us decided to test my idea and see what would happen.
After some trial and error, we found something that worked. Here’s the basic step-by-step process we came up with:
- Form a book outline:
Zach did a few phone calls with Melissa, helped her clarify her book idea and figured out exactly what she wanted to say in her book. From these conversations, he and I wrote an outline for her book.
- Interview her for the content:
Zach then scheduled four two-hour calls with Melissa, where he interviewed her using the outline as a guide. He asked her questions until he got all of her ideas, in her words, out of her head and into an audio recording.
- Transcribe the recordings:
He used REV.com to transcribe the recording.
- “Translate” the transcription to a book manuscript:
If you have ever seen a raw audio transcription, you know it’s basically unreadable. So we took the transcription and “translated” it by taking Melissa’s spoken words and ideas and making them flow on the page, while keeping it in her voice.
- Do some content/copy edits:
Melissa took some time to go over the content to make sure it reflected her thoughts and vision for the book.
- Design a cover:
Because Melissa has a discerning eye, the cover had to look great. We worked with world-class book cover designer Erin Tyler (who is now our Director of Creative) to get Melissa a cool cover that she was proud of.
- Do the rest of the professional publishing minutiae:
There are a million little things that make the difference between a professional book and a clearly self-published amateur book—internal layout, marketing, blurbs, copyright page, etc.
- Publish the book:
It’s now up for sale.
- Establish Ownership:
After the book was finished, we made sure Melissa owned all the royalties and rights to it unlike traditional publishers.
From start to finish the whole process took 9 months. It now takes 7 months to go from idea to publishing date—and sometimes less.
As we were working through this process, I told a few people what Zach and I were up to and they loved it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone loves a startup idea until it comes time to pay, right?
Except two of them did pay. Like…with real money…that they gave us to do the same thing with them.
A few weeks later, I went on a podcast to talk about a different subject and ended up talking about our experiment for most of it instead. Off of that single episode, we sold six more book writing packages, which meant we sold eight packages before we even confirmed to ourselves that we would offer this as a service to paying customers.
When you’re selling a product before you even formally offer it to anyone, you’re onto something. That’s pretty much the ultimate definition of product-market fit!
Those eight sales sealed the deal. In August 2014, Zach and I launched “Book In A Box” (now Scribe Media) and officially started offering book writing and publishing services to customers. In our first two months, we did more than $200k in revenue.
What’s really cool, at least to me, is how excited I still am about this company. Not just because it’s making money. Yes, money is great. But in this case, money is proof of what matters in a new startup—creating real value for real people by solving their very real problems.
A lot of people want to turn their idea into a book, but don’t have the time, ability, or patience to do it the conventional way. Scribe solves that problem. And even better, we solve that problem in a way that’s easier, cheaper, and more effective than any other potential solution.
Take traditional ghostwriting, for example. To hire a ghostwriter, you’re going to pay at least $40k for a decent one (and $75-$150k for a good one). You have no guarantees of quality or fidelity of process with them, and they typically don’t do anything but help you write the book manuscript—no publishing, no marketing, no distribution, no book cover, nothing. You have to pay for all that separately, from different places.
Our primary writing and publishing service costs $36k (with others available ranging from $10k-100k+)—and we do everything necessary to take your idea out of your head and turn it into a professionally published book that’s in your words and your voice.
This is a 10x improvement over any other option that exists to get an idea out of your head and into a book.
It’s been over six years and 1,700 books since we started. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
Co-Founder of Scribe Media, and 4x NYTimes Bestselling Author