BUSINESS INSIDER: What’s your general background? What did you do prior to your book-writing days?
JOHN ROMANIELLO: My general background for the past several years has been in training; for about 12 years I’ve run a successful business in and around NYC, working with lots of “regular” folks, but also a smattering of professional athletes, actors, models, etc. Really, I’ve been building my business offline for a decade.
In 2009, I brought the business online; I started a blog, and began to offer services like online coaching and created digital products.
So, ultimately, I’m in the fitness industry. But, I’ve branched out from there quite a bit. I began doing consulting on writing and getting published in magazines in about 2011. Right around that time, I started doing some angel investing and looking to grow my skills and general experience outside of that. To date, I’ve made three investments, two of which have yielded an immediate return in the sense that they’ve led to profits in my other businesses.
BI: This is your first book deal and it netted seven figures. Awesome. What do you attribute that nice payday to?
JR: There are a number of factors that played in heavily. Firstly, I’m well-regarded in the industry; written for all of the big magazines and all of that. Having spent more than 10 years helping people, collecting data on it, and essentially packaging what makes me an effective trainer in a well written proposal helped a lot. In other words, it took more than 10 years to become an overnight success.
More than that, I have a pretty large platform: good social media presence, great affiliate network, good relationships with magazines, and over course my own subscribers and customers.
Finally, as I mentioned, the proposal was well-written, and hit on all of the things publishers need to see. All of this is detailed in a post on Tim Ferriss’ site, which you can check here.
BI: What kind of internet presence did you have prior to the book? Did that help your work get attention, or was it more organic than that?
JR: Pretty large, for my industry. I’m not sure how you want to quantify presence, but I’ve got a mailing list of 75,000 subscribers, and a ton of data on what works–traffic, conversions, sales. I’ve also got a social media following that–while not large by any means–is exceptionally engaged.
BI: Do authors still need agents today?
JR: That depends on what you mean by “need.” Certainly, you can get a book deal without one. You’re more likely to get a larger book deal if you have one. Agents are deal makers, and they’re really, really good at making deals. But they’re also exceptionally helpful after the deal is made–agents act as a good intermediary between authors and publishers whenever disagreements come up.
BI: Your book is all about building muscle, burning fat, and having more sex. Let’s imagine you’re a scrawny tech blogger – what’s the best way to get started making those things happen? (asking for a friend and definitely not for myself)
JR: Great question! Tell your, err…friend, that the most important thing is to adjust your diet. Simple things like reducing carbs and increasing intake of dietary fat can have a huge impact. These things help increase testosterone, which makes all of the other things more possible.
You should also start doing some type of resistance exercise. Even things like push ups and body weight squats will help.
The main thing to understand is that your entry point doesn’t matter quite so much as you might think. The changes are important, and will help you regardless of your starting point.
BI: Do you personally prefer to read e-books or paper books?
JR: Paper books, without question. I’m a bibliophile to the core; I love the weight of them in my hands, the smell of them (especially old books). I love the way the look on my shelves when I’m done reading them–old friends with comforting voices. I occasionally read digital books when I’m travelling, but I do so begrudgingly.
BI: Are e-books ultimately good or bad for the publishing industry?
JR: Well, ultimately good of course. The more access you give people to books, the more books will be consumed. And, I think that any technological advancement that makes the consumption of books faster and cheaper is good for the world; whether it’s good for the publishing industry is of less interest to me.
BI: What’s the future of books, physical and otherwise?
JR: I think it’s undeniable that physical books will experience a decrease in popularity, because it makes sense. For example, it’s much easier to have a middle school student keep all of his work, textbooks and schedule on a single tablet, rather than have him carry a bag full of heavy books. It’s faster, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and better for the student.
However, physical books aren’t going to disappear entirely. That much, I would predict confidently. History is littered with quotes from shortsighted people who said that the the technology of the day was there in complete permanence. The idea that the motorcar wouldn’t replace the horse and buggy is laughable now, but at the time seemed perfectly reasonable. Things change.
But, there will always be at least a small segment who prefers something with a more physical people. After all, people still ride horses, because there’s nothing quite like it. Similarly, although electric cars are not yet the norm, there is already a contingent of nostalgists who maintain that the roar of a gas powered muscle car can’t be matched. Along those lines, I know a lot of purists that buy the majority of their music on vinyl, maintaining it’s a better sound.
All of which is to say that I think there are and will always be a lot of people like me: people who like books for more than the words in them or the knowledge they give you. For people like me, books are something solid and real, whereas digital stuff is a bit more ethereal. I like the trophy on my shelf, the presence in my home. A nice book is just as valuable as a decoration as a beautiful porcelain urn–and, let’s face it, a hell of a lot more useful.