Buy From Amazon
Prefer the Kindle Version? We've got one. Get it now from the Kindle Store
In the first of a series of interviews, Robert Bacal explains the genesis of his newest book on communication and relationship building.
Q: Robert, this is basically your first book written for the general public. Is that right?
Robert: Yes, or sort of. I wrote an earlier book entitled Conflict Prevention In the Workplace – Using Cooperative Communication, but it focused on job situations. I also wrote a LearnByte Helpcard on Fighting Fair, and a few other LearnBytes for “regular” people.
Q: So, what motivated you to do this book?
Robert: It’s actually a longish story. Originally, I started writing books related to communication, but in the context of performance management and customer service. As part of my research on my customer service books (how to deal with difficult, angry customers), I started to define cooperative vs. confrontational language, and along with the help of a number of online colleagues, put together a set of principles that distinguished between language that sparked argument, and language that build bridges, and soothed angry emotions.
That work eventually ended up being included in the Conflict In The Workplace Book.
Meanwhile I’d done a bunch of Perfect phrases books published by McGraw-Hill on work and business issues.
For a long time, I’ve been meaning to completely rewrite the conflict prevention book, but never felt I had a format I was happy with, until more recently. The thought came to me that what would be good would be to write a book that could help readers STOP saying things to their spouses, children, friends and colleagues that created unnecessary arguments. From there, it only made sense to help people replace those IMperfect phrases with much better ones.
So, it’s not so much a new thing for me. The format just kind of twigged.
Q: Did financial considerations come into your decision to write this book?
Robert: Writers write for a lot of reasons, and I suspect many write because they just “have to”, and that applies to me. But to answer your question, sure. Financial considerations should be a part of any professional writer’s motivation.
Q: Why is that? Isn’t that a bit crass?
Robert: Well, no. I write so people will read what I write. That was one of the first things I learned in a long-ago poetry class — that if you are writing for yourself, that’s different than if you write for others. One of the main indicators to assess being read is whether people are actually paying for what you write. Whether you’ve hit the mark enough in terms of understanding your readers that you get sales.
Like everyone, I have to pay bills, and writing isn’t exactly lucrative, so yeah, the financial component has to be a reality, but it’s also a scorecard.
Q: What about the format? Was that motivated to sell more copies?
Robert: Yes. My sense is that when it comes to self-help, people really embrace simple, short messages that help them do something better NOW. Sure, there’s people who want more theory and more text, but today, reading competes for time with a lot of other activities. So, I wanted to do something that could be used in byte sized chunks. In effect this book has 101 byte sized chunks in it, plus some other byte sized chunks in the supporting chapter.
The original Perfect Phrases Series has done very well offering that up to readers, selling over one million copies. That says people want that kind of thing.
Q: OK, last question, and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to. If you hadn’t written this book, would you buy it and read it?
Robert: Yikes! You want an honest answer? Yes, I guess you do. Probably not, although I can’t erase the knowledge in my head and pretend I don’t know the content of the book. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction — haven’t in years, and my preference would be for a lot of theory, models and research. I’d love to write those kinds of books, but they tend to be written by academics, and that ship has sailed for me.
I DO like the content of this book, and the content is SOME of the Perfect Phrases books. That said, I’d rather settle in with a good mystery novel. So, probably not something I would pick up UNLESS I had concerns or problems with my relationships that I needed help with. I’m really not in that situation, at this point in my life.
Q: Thanks, Robert, for being candid. Next time, then.