Advisorist Podcast – Episode 14: The Influencer Mind, and How to Attract Attention


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Want to be an influencer in your industry? Think a book will help you open doors? Then you want to listen to this first.

Max has a motto, it would have to be, “I’ll be funny.” After all, his career as a writer started as a lark. But what he discovered almost serendipitously about influence has become more powerful than even a platform for his ideas.

Max has gone from the celebrity, uber-gonzo, ultra-outrageous writer to the founder of Scribe Media, which provides writing, marketing and publishing services to aspiring authors.

In his journey, Max has effectively unlocked the mysteries associated with celebrity influencer status and systematized the process for generating attention. Today his company is helping organizations and individuals build audiences for business or cause.


Note:  This Advisorist Podcast transcript was created in part by computers – Please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors…or sentences that just downright don’t seem to make sense!  Please compare to corresponding audio if clarity is needed.

Jeremiah: Hi, this is Jeremy Desmarais, Founder of Advisorist and it gives me great pleasure and really it’s an incredible honor to introduce to you one of the hosts of the Advisorist podcast, Michael Levin. Michael is not only a personal friend, but he’s one of the most established ghostwriters in the nation and a New York Times best-selling author who’s written, co-written, or ghostwriter over 550 books. Hundreds of them in the financial services arena of which 18 are national bestsellers. You would be hard pressed to find somebody that hasn’t been in more outlets than Michael. He’s been on Shark Tank, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, the LA Times, The Boston Globe, Writer’s Digest, CBS News. I mean, the guy has even had his work optioned and made for film by Steven Soderbergh of paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, Frank Perry, and so many more. He ghostwrote for some of the biggest names in sports and business including Dave Winfield, Pat Summerall, Howard Bragman, former Schwab CEO David Pottruck, Marketing legend Jay Abraham, NBA star Doug Christie, and the list goes on and on and on. As the host of All Eyes on You, Michael will bring his unique blend of insights and wisdom as it relates to using books to get to the level of your dreams that you’ve always desired. They are one of the most powerful introduction tools that financial advisors and insurance agents can use today. I know when I got my book written, oh my, did the doors open up. That’s why I’m so excited to have Michael hosting All Eyes on You as part of the Advisorist network. Michael, take it away my friend.

Michael: It’s my great pleasure to welcome Tucker Max to the podcast. Tucker has been a hero of mine for a long time. I was a huge admirer of his books, ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell’. A couple of other titles that were for all New York Times bestsellers, there’s three #1 New York Times bestsellers. Tucker also did something that was, I think a unique feat in the history of book publishing, he got a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster where he came to the publishing house and he said, “You’re going to distribute the book. You’re not going to publish it. I’m going to publish it, and I’m going to keep the rights and you’re just going to distribute it.” No one on Earth had ever done this with Simon & Schuster before. It is like making elephants dance to do something of that magnitude. I had the huge admiration for him, for how enjoyable his books were, for how much fun they were, for his publishing success and then for his ability to dictate terms to a major publishing house. It’s really extraordinary. Since then, there was a movie of one of his books, he’s done a lot of things in Hollywood and he ghostwrote a book which became top 15 book on the New York Times bestseller list. Since he started a ghost writing firm, they turn ideas into books. It’s called Scribe. So if you’ve got an idea for a book, you ought to be talking to Tucker. Tucker, thank you for taking the time and welcome to the podcast.

Tucker: Thanks, man. Thanks for having me.

Michael: My pleasure. So people are starved for attention, for finding out ways to attract eyeballs to what they offer. This is true for financial advisors, or authors or pretty much anybody on the planet. So it seems as though this is something that you come by naturally, is that fair to say?

Tucker: I don’t know, actually, if it come by and naturally. Like I just took a disc assessment and my influence is DISC, and the I is influence and it was so weird because my influence was like 83 or something which is really high but there’s a ‘learn’ versus ‘natural’. I don’t know how they determine the two. My ‘learn’ was 83. My ‘natural’ is like 15. I’m not a highly naturally influencer person but yeah, I’ve learned it I guess. No, I don’t know, man. I’ve gotten good at it but I don’t know if it’s natural or not.

Michael: Okay, fair enough. Did I read that you started your blog that ended up with very quickly with a million followers on a bar bet or on a bet of some kind?

Tucker: Yeah, kind of. So it all started in law school where like, I don’t know, like basically like my friends bet me that I couldn’t put up application for girls to fill out to go on a date with me that they would. They were all like, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. That’ll never happen, or blah, blah, blah.” You know how it’s like. I was in college, I was in law school but with the same basic difference. All my friends, they thought it was the dumbest thing they ever heard. They bet me and I was like, “Okay, fine. Let’s do it.” I actually started doing that and I loved it. It was way more fun than law school. So I spent all this time and I put up this hilarious application and then this is like, oh man, this was like 2000. So this is like back when if you wanted to have a website like this is right when geocity started. So you basically had to learn to like code HTML if you wanted a website. It was a major pain.

Michael: What kind of girls were you attracting in 2000 online? Just out of curiosity.

Tucker: Probably not the ones you really want to attract. But all I cared about was winning the bet. But then what was cool is after a while, like it kind of got a little bit of traction and then it had its own little life. But then I started putting up stories about all the stuff that like I would do like the girls I would meet or whatever. That ended up becoming the material for my books that went on to sell millions of copies.

Michael: So when did the idea come to you that, ‘Hey, I could make a living from this and this could be really fun’? When did that kick in?

Tucker: Oh, man, that was a long time later. That was not until about 2002 but it wasn’t really even the idea that I can make a living from it. I got fired from being a lawyer and then my dad fired me. I went to work for my father, he owned some restaurants in South Florida. He fired me from the family business.

Michael: Wow.

Tucker: Yeah, I know, right? My friends were like, “Look, dude, you’re not really good at business or law. Like these emails you writing about all this stuff you’re doing is like the funniest thing we’ve ever read. Like, this is what you should do.” I’m like, “I’m not gonna go be a writer, that’s what bitches do.” I know because like now I’m a bitch, right? Obviously, it’s my job. But that’s the way I thought at the time. And so anyway, long, long story short, I tried to get other jobs, looked at other things, and I hated everything. I was like, I kind of as a joke, I put all the stories on my blog and then they just kind of took off, man. It was like, “Well, I guess I’m a writer. I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do,” because it was apparently the only thing I was good at. I couldn’t get a job, I had to make a job.

Michael: Well, that’s just the entrepreneurial spirit in action. So what kind of law did you practice and how long did you last practicing?

Tucker: I worked at a firm called Fenwick & West, which is a really big firm in Silicon Valley. They represent Google and Facebook and all the like. Like everyone you know in tech are their clients. I was there for three weeks. I wrote an email that like, it’s still pretty famous in the legal profession because I got fired as a summer associate, which is like pretty much impossible to do. I did it. It became like a big deal. That story is actually in my first book, ‘I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell’. Then, after they fired me, I still had to go back to law school. I didn’t have to go back to law school and finish, but I did because I was like, I was there two years in and I was like, “No, I’m going to do this.” I actually finished, got my degree. It’s so funny because people are like, “Oh, yeah. Did you graduate?” I’m like, “Oh, I graduated. I just never took the bar or officially started practicing because the last time I was graduating, I got probably wasn’t going to get a job anywhere.”

Michael: I have to say that I’m a lawyer by training, I practiced for about an hour after I graduated law school and I can tell you that in the history of law school and law, no one has ever been fired as a summer associate except for this man.

Tucker: I was.

Michael: So now you’re putting the emails out, starting to get traction, and people are saying these things are the funniest things I’ve ever read. At what point did you say I have to add some marketing to this as opposed to just letting it grow organically?

Tucker: Never. Because I was so early in the internet, and I was very stubborn and hard headed. I never needed to advertise so I just didn’t. That’s one of the things that actually helped me be so successful in business is when you come from the world of entertainment, the content is what you’re selling. So if your content isn’t so good that people are going to naturally tell their friends, like you are in business, that’s just it, right? You’re done. So for me, I had to get that nail like my stuff had to be really good and organically spreadable and so it was. It’s sort of like if you don’t have to spend on paid ads, you don’t. Now, if I had been smarter, I would have really focused a lot more on building my list. Even though I did build the list, at the time, I did it very passively and I still built a good six figure list but I could have built it much more actively. Honestly, I could have turned my stuff into like what the chive has become or barstool sports or any of those sorts of things. I could have done that. I didn’t do any of that because it’s so funny. I thought I made fun of writers before I became a writer. But then I became a writer and I like totally adopted the snobby elitist writer mindset, which was the worst thing I could have done, but it’s what I did. I spent pretty much no time and effort on marketing except I would pull stunts and do like media stuff. Like I tried to donate a half million dollars to Planned Parenthood to have the name of the clinic after me. Like funny stuff, but not like paid marketing type stuff, no.

Michael: And not funny to everybody stuff, I’m sure.

Tucker: No, of course not because of the funny to everybody, it’s not funny.

Michael: Right.

Tucker: There’s no such thing that’s funny to everybody. That’s the whole point of humor, it’s transcript.

Michael: So what happened when you try to get a Planned Parenthood clinic?

Tucker: People lost their fucking minds. Like my fans thought it was hilarious. A good number of people who didn’t know who I was thought it was funny. The funny thing was, I honestly thought Planned Parenthood would like it, I thought they would want a half million dollars, and they would want all the stuff. But like, this is one of those things that you learn about charities. When you start working with them is that most charities are not about helping the people they say they’re about, they’re about status signaling and virtue signaling for the people who run the charity and the donors. Which is why like the United Way spends 70% or 80% of its income on fundraising and other stuff and not on the people that helps and no one cares because it is not about charity.

Michael: How did you pick Planned Parenthood? For the customer or how did you…?

Tucker: Yeah, literally. First of them, very pro choice, right? So I was like, “Okay, like this is a pro choice. This is a cause I believe in.” Planned Parenthood’s helped a lot of people and been there. Also, long, long, long story short, basically, like, my thought was, I would team up with people that I believed in to help them and then I would get attention out of that then like everyone would win, right? But it turned out, like the only people more mad at me for wanting to donate to Planned Parenthood, like I thought for sure the fundamentalist Christians and those an anti-abortion people would hate me. They were not as mad at me, as Planned Parenthood was. I was like, “Okay, this is not at all what I expected.”

Michael: This whole conversation is not at all what I expected. So when you went to Planned Parenthood, why were they upset that you wanted to write them half a million? Was it you? Had your books come out? Were you notorious?

Tucker: Because Planned Parenthood is totally ideologically captured by the social justice warrior mindset and so they care more about how they look than who they help.

Michael: Okay.

Tucker: Simple. That’s literally what they told me.

Michael: So what was the effect of the Planned Parenthood event, with that whole experience, on your public persona or the size of your list? How did that transform things for you?

Tucker: I don’t know. I mean like, I didn’t spend a lot of time with all that stuff. Like that was before. Like, dude, I have a 40 person company now and hundreds of freelancers. My CMO is like crazy analytics and he can tell you like all that nonsense. I had no idea about that stuff then and didn’t care. For me, it was much more, “This will be both cool because like this is a belief that I endorse, but also like, it’ll create a bunch of news and it’ll be funny.” Like it was fun for me. It was not like I wasn’t looking at it systematically.

Michael: Fair enough. What else did you do along those lines to get attention?

Tucker: Oh, man. This is a good one. Early in the days of Twitter, right when like people kind of figured out you could pay celebrities to tweet and use the platform where like you could submit tweets to like sort of a centralized database and you submit it, and then bid a price and then the celebrity could select it and tweet it, right? I’m laughing because my buddy and I spent a full day on this thing writing up tweets that were endorsements of me from celebrities that were amazing and like trying to get people to tweet them. Remember Snooki from the MTV, the Jersey Shore? There’s so many with her, but they were thinking, “I’m an idiot who can’t read, but if I could I would love Tucker Max’s books.” Things like that, right? I mean, we had one for like, whatever the Kardashian that at the time was dating Lamar Odom like he’s a big NBA basketball player, I can’t remember which Kardashian. They were like, “I like my men big, black, and will leave me when they’re done or something just like Tucker Max’s new book.” Like I mean, just horrific. They’re just so ridiculous. We got a bunch of them to actually tweet it. So then we took screenshots of this. Then of course, then the news story is celebrity writer punk celebrities, right? It was hilarious, man. Like Paris Hilton, she didn’t tweet this but we like we still got the screenshot of like the mock up. Paris Hilton, we almost got her to tweet, “The only thing I’ve ever met that has more diseases than me is Tucker Max’s new book.” Just like all that stuff. I got a lot of coverage man and people love that. That was everywhere.

Michael: While I was listening I was thinking, there’s an annuity salesmen out there watching this, or listening to this and saying, “How do I apply this to my…”

Tucker: Oh, no, don’t do that. Man, like a lot of people coming in, “How can I use controversy or stump marketing?” I’m like, “You’re a plumber, dude. Like, you can’t, and you shouldn’t, it doesn’t make any sense like at all.” When I was doing this, I was a celebrity. When you’re a celebrity, you are the product for people, right? My role was kind of iconoclastic gadfly. That’s what I did. It made sense for me but it doesn’t make any sense for an annuity salesman. Like it makes no sense at all. Like no one’s looking for the edgy, dangerous annuity salesman. They’re looking for the opposite for annuities, right? You don’t want a plumber who’s full of shit, you want a plumber who cleans up shit. That’s such an important thing with branding. People don’t get it like, “Oh, well, Tim Ferriss does this.” It’s like, you’re not Tim Ferriss, and you’re in a totally different industry and none of that makes any sense. They don’t think about it systematically.

Michael: You’re now in a world where you are working with authors who are not Tucker Max and they are not necessarily plumbers, but they’re certainly financial advisors, or entrepreneurs, or coaches or consultants, people in the business world, people in healthcare, etc. And, they come to you, do you talk with them at all about marketing?

Tucker: Yeah, of course. We’re in the size now where I don’t really talk to many people anymore like coming in. But obviously, when we started, we were small I did. Our system, I built the whole system. We’re very systematic about that. So we don’t do branding services like if someone comes in and they don’t know their message, or they’re not sure about their business or their story at all, there’s a branding firm we work with called Campfire Effect that I really like. There’s other great ones too but Chris is uniquely situated to get people ready to write their book the way he does it so we send them to him. But that’s not common. Most people come in, they know their business. They’ve been doing it for 10, or 20 to 30 years, they’ve got all this knowledge and wisdom in their head and they know that they think they have a book in them that they even know but they’re not sure what it is. That’s where we’re really good is we help them get really clear on what the book is, but then how they’re going to use it. Because a lot of people think in their head that marketing and book positioning are different things like you write your book, and then you figure out how to market it, which is the worst thing you can do. You’ve got to go the other way around. First, you actually have to think about the marketing in a sense, then you think about from that what the book is, but not really marketing. What we do with people is just very simple. Who do you want to reach with your book and why are they going to care? Then what are you going to get from it? When the right people care about your book, what happens for you? When you can answer those questions in a systematic way and they all make sense and line up? Then it’s very clear exactly which book you should write and then the marketing is easy because you know exactly who they are and why they’re going to care so just go put your message in front of them.

Michael: So it starts with asking those questions, who is my market and why should they care?

Tucker: Who’s my audience, not market. Because people think when we say market, they’re like, “Oh, it’s…” And then they think, white women. No, that’s not a market. It’s just a bunch of people and there’s no unifying thing about them except something that doesn’t actually unify. We really systematically and we make people deeply understand precisely who they’re writing for, why they’re going to care, then what they’re going to get from it and then it’s all that simple.

Michael: I just have to ask, it seems as though there are two phases to Tucker Max’s life. The first phase is the guy who was out there, getting all those women and writing about it, and drinking and the wild stuff. Now you’re a married man and you’re a father, you’re a business owner. Is there any conflict between the two? Are both still alive? Do you have to step away from the first persona to be the second?

Tucker: There are different phases of my life. That’s all it is. It’s so funny. I get that question a lot. Look, man, we all play with toys when we were 10 and we don’t anymore and it doesn’t mean that that phase is right or wrong, or it doesn’t mean anything other than it’s a developmental stage. So most men and women go through the young, stupid, crazy, have fun development age and mine just happened to be public and I extended it because it was my career for a while. So for most people, it ends about somewhere between 28 and 34 and mine extended to about 35 or 36 because I was making a lot of money on it and it was a lot of fun and I was good at it. Yes, in no way shape or form do I feel like who I am now contradicted who I was. My life is very different, though. That is the thing. That would be the problem if I was trying to do two things at once. But I don’t try and do both at once like when I was single and crazy and hooking up and partying and being stupid and that’s who I was, right? Like good example is my schedule. When I was at that stage in my life, I was probably going to bed at 2am.

Michael: You are hitting bookshelves in public libraries. What I’m hearing is that was then this is now and you’re still you but that was just a different phase of your life.

Tucker: Right, exactly.

Michael: Okay. So let’s go back to the question of talking about the authors that you work with\ because that’s going to be closest to the experience of the people who are listening to this and trying to figure out, how do I get more attention for who I am and what I do? The starting point for you is, who is your audience? Is that correct? How do you help people understand that?

Tucker: So what we do is we help people and we start with where they are. What do you do? How do you actually help people? Usually, we just start there and then from that everything usually become really clear. As you well know, for any book to be good, whether you want to use your book up your business, or however you want to use it, it’s got to hit an audience. We’ve got to start with your audience. What knowledge do you have in your head that other people find valuable? How’s your book gonna help them? That’s where we start.

Michael: Once you’ve established the audience, where do you go from there?

Tucker: So once we know who their audience is and why their audience is going to care, what we do is we try and really understand their objectives. So what do you want this book to accomplish for you? Once we know what it’s going to accomplish for an audience, what’s it going to accomplish for you? And then when that is clear, and people sometimes are all over the map, we have to get them dialed in, what’s a realistic objective for a book? Is this book gonna actually accomplish that? Then once they have that pretty clear, then honestly, the idea is pretty much there. Because once you know who your audience is and why they’re going to care, and what the books going to get you, then you know exactly the book you have to write to hit those three things, right? Hit this audience, make sure they’re interested, and reach your objectives.

Michael: Is it frequently the case that you encounter people who really don’t know who their audiences, they’re just sort of out there, and they do stuff and kind of get lucky and make sales or most people know who their audience is?

Tucker: No. If you don’t know who your audience is, you shouldn’t be writing a book. Of course, we talked to some of those people, but we don’t do books with them. There’s no book to write. They don’t know who their audience is then what they’re ultimately really writing is a diary. You don’t need to publish that. Diaries are great. Just go write it.

Michael: How narrowly or broadly do you define an audience?

Tucker: As narrow as possible. Like what we always tell people in marketing, the riches are in the niches and so the more narrow you can get, the better.

Michael: How do you help someone? Or is that part of the service? Helping people identify what their true niche is as opposed to the broader audience that they think they serve?

Tucker: Oh, yeah, of course. Oh, absolutely. In a weird way, we’re almost like branders and markers. We just have to have those skills because they’re so deeply intertwined with books, with personal development, self-help business books, they’re all deeply intertwined. We’ve had a huge number probably 25% to 30% of our clients will finish the book and tell us, “Oh, my God. I learned so much about myself and my business by doing this.”

Michael: I’ve had ghostwriting clients who’ve said, “I really didn’t understand what I did until you showed up.” Sounds like the same sort of thing.

Tucker: Yeah.

Michael: I guess how long can somebody go in business without having a clear sense of who his or her audience is?

Tucker: I mean, a long time. It’s pretty shocking. Yeah, a long time.

Michael: They’re leaving a lot of money on the table because they’re not identifying the niche is going to make them rich.

Tucker: We see two different things. We see people who don’t know their niche, and we see people who don’t know their process, right? Which are not the same thing.

Michael: Yes.

Tucker: We can help people with either one to some extent but it’s usually easier for us if you don’t know your niche. If you don’t know your process, then that can get sideways fast, right? Because then it turns into real ghostwriting. We kind of have tiers of service. We don’t just do ghostwriting. We do ghostwriting, an interview style process and then we do which is more kind of a content extraction. Then we have one where you’re writing it yourself with our guidance and support and structure. But in all of them, we help you understand this stuff. But if you don’t know your process at all, then it’s tough to teach your process. If you don’t know your audience, usually, if we ask enough questions, or if you look at your CRM, you can figure it out pretty quick.

Michael: For the last couple of minutes, just tell me more about Scribe. Who do you serve? Who’s your ideal client? What’s the process with you that they should expect if they contact you? What do you do?

Tucker: So our ideal client tend to be entrepreneurs or independent professionals, people who have a successful business or a successful practice. Anyone from a chiropractor, to a doctor, to a lawyer, to a tech CEO, to even high level executives at companies, agency owners, all that kind of stuff. Essentially, people who get paid to share their knowledge with people, to use what they know to help people do things, that is uniformly who our clients are. What we do is we help them get their knowledge and wisdom out of their head and into a book in a way that’s going to both serve their reader and serve them.

Michael: What kind of publishing and marketing services do you offer as well as the ghost end?

Tucker: So we like to say we help people write, publish and market their book. It’s what we do. Pretty much full service. So writing, like I said, full ghostwriting, sort of closet ghostwriting interview service, or you write it and kind of have done with you, you use our structure, use our process, we give you editing, whatever, but you’re hands on the keyboard. Then, full publishing services. I mean, everything like we do book cover all the way through, we do really high level publishing stuff. Like if you go look at David Goggins book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’, which has been killing it the last three months, like we did that entire book, like all that cover all that stuff. So we do high level publishing. Then marketing wise, we don’t do everything but we do very specific sort of services based around establishing. Basically, if you’re an independent professional type, or you have a small agency, the best way to get clients is usually in the broadest sense, trust and authority based content marketing. That’s what we do. We’re really good at taking your book and the ideas in your book, and getting them in front of your audience so they will read them and see them and understand, “Oh, this person can help me accomplish a goal I have or solve a problem of mine. I’m gonna go reach out to them and become a client.”

Michael: I have to say that I’ve been ghostwriting for 25 years, and I know what’s out there. I’ve never seen as robust a book marketing program as what Scribe offers.

Tucker: Oh, thank you. Yeah, that’s cool. We’ve had to develop because the demand is really strong for this stuff.

Michael: And my understanding is that you’ve got a lot of authors take advantage of that program.

Tucker: Yeah, we have 10 to 15 authors, new ones coming in every month. It’s the fastest growing part of our company by far.

Michael: And you’ve got the bandwidth to handle all that.

Tucker: Yep.

Michael: Tucker Max, I really appreciate you taking the time. Not everything in your life story is going to be applicable to our financial advisor, or consultant. So I guess the message is do the opposite but it’ll all work out in the end. So thank you so much for taking time. I really enjoyed this.

Tucker: Yes. Thank you, man.

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Jeremiah Desmarais

Jeremiah Desmarais

Jeremiah is the founder and CEO of Advisorist® and is a 23-time award winning financial marketer, a TED speaker and philanthropist. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNN, and Worth. His work has generated over $2 million insurance leads and helped advisors in over 51 countries generate over $300 million in sales commissions. He is the author of the best selling book, SHIFT.

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