Promoting Self-Published Authors with Tanya Hall and Building Your Brand Image with Toi Sweeney

Most business owners today are also self-published authors and use their books as personalized business cards with a lot of value. Tanya Hall of Greenleaf Book Group helps authors with publishing strategies that will make them become bestselling writers. In CreateSpace, she guides authors who don’t know the next thing they should do. Using her background in fashion and style, Toi Sweeney helps professionals get on a pathway with confidence. She shares her style, expertise, and results-driven approach to build brand image and increase an entrepreneur’s perceived value.

TTL 138 | Self-Published Authors

We have Tanya Hall and Toi Sweeney. Tanya Hall is the CEO of Greenleaf Book Group and she works to help authors develop publishing strategies. Toi Sweeney is an award-winning stylist, brand image strategist, and successful entrepreneur. Both of these women are really well known in their industries and their fascinating.

Listen to the podcast here:

Promoting Self-Published Authors with Tanya Hall

I am with Tanya Hall who’s the CEO of Greenleaf Book Group. Prior to this position, she worked directly with Greenleaf’s authors to develop publishing strategies including multiple New York Times best sellers, spearheaded growth strategies including Greenleaf’s E-group Program and the River Grove Digital First Print Imprint. She also built Greenleaf’s distribution, organization directly working with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest growing distribution businesses in the industry. Before joining the publishing industry, she worked in digital media and as a television producer for Extra and E! Cable Networks. It’s nice to have you here, Tanya.

Thank you for having me.

There’s a lot that you do and I was really fascinated. I found out about Greenleaf Book Group from seeing a book that you have coming out from Kimberly Davis. I was very interested in her book and I went, “This looks really great. Who did this?” That’s how I found out about you. I’ve self-published in the past and I know a lot of people who’ve self-published it and I am very fascinated by the different choices out there. A lot of people use Create Space. I have had other show with other companies that do the same thing. I want to know how you got into this. That’s a pretty interesting background with the digital media and working with the Extra and E-cables. How did you make this transition over to this?

I can tell you that it was perfectly planned and it might look that way on paper, but it was just a series of unfortunate events. I’m from Los Angeles and I worked on national television shows out there. I am very blessed to have my foot in the door at some big shows early on in my career. The digital media thing, everybody did that in the late ‘90s. That was the dot-com boom and they recruited heavily out of television because they wanted everyone’s Rolodex to get the celebrity contacts onto their programming. A lot of us just migrated over there and it was ridiculous. You’ve heard stories about the dot-com boom and the parties.

It turned out that was shortly after 9/11, and I happened to be pregnant at the time, I have been thinking I wanted to take some time and be home with my girls when they were young. That felt like a one gigantic sign from the universe. A lot of people did a little bit of reflection at that time. If you were of working age during 9/11, it made you think about what’s important. I did take a few years off. I knew that walking away from television would mean walking away from that career because it was all about who you knew. You don’t get to take a break and just jump back in. That was a conscious decision and I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wasn’t terribly worried. I’m a resourceful person.

Out in Los Angeles at the same time, we have been playing the property ladder thing like so many people do out there. I sold the house and we’re thinking about where to move next. I had friends who moved to Austin and they said it’s a great town to raise kids. Like so many people, at first I thought, “No way,” but I came out here and it’s absolutely beautiful. Austin is a vibrant college town. It’s very progressive and it’s so fun. I decided to move to Austin and I needed a job. It just so happens that Greenleaf Book Group was looking for a distribution manager at the time, and I believe I was employee number four. This was back in 20014, and the distribution manager was charged with opening up all of the retail outlet relationships. Ultimately that grew into the backbone of the company, as we are a distributor at our core.

Unlike a lot of other publishers who outsource sales representation, we do that in house and that’s a big differentiator for us. We have the relationships with the airport accounts, Barnes and Noble. We have a commissioned sales rep force out in the field that champions are book sales. That’s the part of the business that I actively spent years building and growing. It’s a good place to get an excellent working knowledge of this industry which is complicated, and build up the expertise that ultimately helped me transition into the CEO role because I have so much knowledge on a business level and on the financial side of how all of this works within the company and all of the industry relationships to make that effective. It’s one of those falling forward things.

Everybody’s doing some publishing idea, saying the book is the new business card. It’s definitely gotten a lot of attention. Is it hard when you have to compete? You’re able to get your books on Amazon obviously. Does the Create Space thing cause any challenges because you’re competing at all with Amazon’s own situation or is that not a problem?

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Self-Published Authors: We put a lot of energy into nurturing and building those brick and mortar relationships because that’s where we provide a different level of value.

Not so much. The author that we are typically seeking is the same type of author that a traditional publisher, Wiley or Crowhill, is looking for. Over half of our revenue is coming from brick and mortar distribution still. That number does get smaller every year. Amazon continues to take larger and larger market share but we still put a lot of energy into nurturing and building those brick and mortar relationships because that’s where we provide a different level of value than the person who just self-publishes on Create Space. That’s a fine option for many people, especially if you have niche content or if you just want to stick a toe on the water and see how it goes.

Doing a book launch is a national product launch. I don’t care what you’re launching, that’s a huge undertaking. It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of energy. It’s affected us in as much as it makes the whole landscape more competitive because of the sheer volume of books being published. It’s hard to cut above that noise. In terms of authors, we often get people who start on Create Space or another self-publishing platform and they say, “I did what I can do there, but I can’t get into retail. Can you help?”

How did they get your attention? A lot of authors out there would like to know that.

We look at the books that come in for our review. We’re looking for the same thing that our retail buyers are looking for. We’re a proxy for them and they’re a proxy for the bookstore buyer, the actual consumer who’s shopping at the store. A lot of things go into it but it’s a little bit of science and a little bit of art, I suppose. Compelling content is number one. There are a lot of people who have a huge emphasis on “build your platform” and that doesn’t matter.

You have to have the ability to reach an audience, to cut through all of this competition, but you also have to have content that is fresh and you’re saying something new. It’s not just the same leadership book with another bow around it or it just doesn’t have enough of an impact to move the needle sales-wise. We’re looking for something that’s cutting edge, that’s not been said before, and that is sometimes a little controversial. That always sells or goes against the grain on something that is assumed as old truth.

I had an agent that was shopping one of my books at one time. This was a long time ago, long before I had the media presence I have now. It didn’t use to be so much that way as it is now. Is it getting more so that you expect a lot more of the authors to come with everything right off the bat?

Definitely. That’s a product of the way that the big houses have changed, the big five big publishing houses in New York. They don’t take so much of a chance anymore on new voices. They’re looking for the sure bet. That’s how their business model has evolved. The sure bet to them is somebody who already has an audience. That’s why there’s so much emphasis, especially coming from the traditional side where agents are involved, going in with a package that says this person has hundreds of thousands of followers and, even better, has a track record for selling a whole bunch of books.

That is going to make for a much bigger advance and bigger payday for everybody. They want that but it doesn’t mean that an author should be discouraged. If a book is on either the strategic list or the bucket list or just the to-do list, that shouldn’t be a deterrent because a platform is something that you can chip away at. The book is part of connecting with an audience and ultimately making an impact on people’s lives.

Do people need to have an agent to give you a book? Do people send it directly to you? How does that work with you guys?

Most of the submissions that we receive are not from an agent and that’s because we don’t pay advances. Agents are typically looking for an advance. We have ways that we can take care of agents out of our cut of the book sales so we’ll make it worth their while. Everybody wants the books that are going to sell. Most of our authors just submit directly through our website. We do have some agents and publicists who will send us referrals of stuff that they know is going to be a good fit but we mostly do what we call prescriptive non-fiction. It’s something that helps you lead a better life and it is actionable content. It’s giving you a roadmap to put a plan in place and put this book to work. It’s not just theoretical, “Here, go do it.” It creates value for the reader.

Those are my favorite books, that’s why probably it drew my attention. I get a lot of books that are self-published that just don’t have that quality that you see in your book. Why do you think that is? Do they cut back on the print process? It just doesn’t have that same feel, just the book itself, and I’m not even talking about the quality of the content. I’m talking about the book.

There’s a few things that play there. A lot of people who self-publish underestimate the expertise that goes into creating the nice quality books that we all enjoy. You can be the general contractor when you self-publish. You can either try on your own to just use templates in Create Space. You just choose a template and pour your manuscript into it and you have a book, but it’s not necessarily a good reader experience. It’s probably not doing the content justice the way a good designer would. All of those things make an impact on the reader and will affect their impression of the author and the author’s brand. Quality is something that we’re absolute sticklers for. Our books I will confidently say are better than what the traditional publishers are putting out, and that’s both in terms of the content itself and the design. The design is just hugely important as we’re trying to compete online and in stores.

That was what attracted me right off the bat. I’m like, “This looks really nice.” I get them at Barnes & Noble. A source sends me a book every day, which I love. I get a good comparison of what looks good and what the quality was. I have had people who have been on my show who have published with major publishing groups. They said that they didn’t have good experience because they felt like they had to do all the work themselves, and go and still do all the speaking and all the promoting it. What do they offer now to help with sales that you don’t rely so much on just the author? Did you guys do a lot of that stuff? What can they expect if they published with guys?

Our model is different than that. First of all, it’s author-funded. We have a unique spin on publishing. We are a hybrid publisher so we’re in between self-publishing and traditional publishing. In exchange for keeping control of their rights, the authors are actually investing in the production of the books. That makes for a more collaborative process all the way through because this is our author’s baby, but we have to sell it. We only do about 120 books a year. It’s about 10% of what we review. That’s different than a self-publisher who will publish anything. At the same time, it’s unusual that the author has this level of involvement in the creative process but that is there because they’ve got skin in the game. They understand that in exchange for their commitments and resources going towards promoting it, they’re also keeping the lion’s share of the royalties. We make 10% of the book sales and they’re keeping the majority of it.

Our model is flipped from the traditional publishers in that way. We don’t get so much of that complaining because the authors are putting the pedal to the metal and doing the hustle around the book launch. Then they’re winning exponentially because they’re making so much more on the royalty side. The traditional houses again, because they’ve shifted so much of the focus to the name brand authors, the household names, they follow that. The resources will go behind, telling you all about the new James Patterson series or whatever it is and not so much promoting new voices. In any publishing model, the author is to be the one driving that consumer demand, creating awareness, building buzz, doing interviews, and writing articles to support it. It is absolutely harder than writing a book.

I have written several. I know exactly what you’re saying. Is there a requirement that you have of the authors? You only pick 10%. You have a very select group. Of the group you pick, do you say you have to do a certain amount of speaking or promoting or is that just part of the deal?

Over the years, you get a feel intuitively for who is ready to commit at that level. Often these are people who are already speaking. They already have a bit of a platform established. They have burned the ships to some degree. They are not tired kicking and they don’t have a day job. They are doing this on the side. This is tied to a bigger brand that they’re building somehow. That is what we are sniffing out and we are trying to make sure that the book and its outcomes are aligned with whatever their business goals are. All of that works together and helps to build the success that brings the book forward into the world, which is where we win.

That’s what we’re looking for. It’s really the people who are committed and serious. It doesn’t matter so much to me if they’ve got 100,000 followers or 10,000 followers, it’s more about the authentic drive there. They have to have a certain willingness to turn on that extrovert switch. A lot of writers tend to want to hold up and write and then turn it over. That may have been the case at one time, but it does not. It’s very romantic. It doesn’t work that way though. They got to promote.

There’s so many ways now with social media and it’s so much different. Do you have audio and digital? What do you have? Is it just the print? What do you offer?

We have all the things. We have prints and we have a digital only option when somebody wants to do just e-books or print on demand an e-book, or if they want to do some other combination of that. We have audio books as well, workbooks, ancillary products, we build websites, all kinds of fun stuff. We help develop keynote presentation. It’s fun when you are so knee deep in somebody’s ideas and their messaging and you’d get who their audience is. You can help the author figure out ways to repackage their content so they can connect with a different audience who likes to receive content in a different way. We spend a lot of time thinking about that, what format are appropriate for what this person is saying, who they’re trying to reach, and what would it look like if we tried to put this book into some other ways of getting out into the world. Because we have that smaller list, we can play like that and we can brainstorm and put a little strategy behind our launches.

When people give you their books, is it like the traditional publisher where you give them just a proposal or are you seeing full books? What are people submitting to you mostly?

It’s a little all over the map. We love to see a full manuscript. Sometimes we see a full book that has already been printed and they have 3,000 of them in their garage. We’re like, “If only you had done this or you had a different cover,” or, “That title doesn’t work.” That’s unfortunate, but if we can get our hands on the manuscripts when they’ve decided it’s time to put the pencil down, it might still need a proofread. That helps us understand exactly where the author’s going. With nonfiction, it’s not necessary.

We can make a decision on as little as an outline and a couple of sample chapters because that tells us the framework, the structure, what the book is going to cover, and then we also get a taste of the author’s writing chops. On the total other end of the spectrum, we have people who come to us with just the starting glimpse of an idea, a little glimmer in the eye. That’s fine though because we can sit down and pull it out of them. It’s one of those things where you can visually see them start to just come to life as the idea takes shape, and they get clear on what it is. At the end, they’re just so grateful because they feel like a weight’s been lifted.

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Self-Published Authors: We have people who come to us with just the starting glimpse of an idea. That’s fine though because we can sit down and pull it out of them.

That’s hard for a lot of people. I lot of people tell me that they want to wrote a book and they want to know how long the process is. How long is the process? Is there an easy answer to that?

No. There’s two parts to the process. There’s a process for writing the book, and that’s probably where we see the most variable of how long does it take. I’m working on my own book, Full Disclosure, so I’m one of these people. They’ll start off like, “I got this. No problem. I’m just raring to go and blaze through the first 20,000 words and then totally stuck.”That’s pretty common. The typical getting through a manuscript is probably at least six months.

How much time is it after that?

From there, it’s editorial plus five months. Editorial can vary depending on what level of work the manuscript needs. The plus five months part, sometimes authors get frustrated with that. “Why does it take so long?” It’s because we fell into those brick and mortar bookstores and retail accounts and airports. They do their merchandise planning five months before the publication date. They’re buying December stuff in late summer, so we have to pitch it to them. That’s when they have the most budget to make purchases on our product, so we’re playing by their rules.

What happens if you can’t get them to buy the book? Is there a contract you sign with the people that write the books that, “You’ll get them in XYZ stores?” Is it just you’re going to try? How does that work?

First of all, for any author who was talking to a publisher who promises them, “Yes, I will get you in XYZ stores,” I would say run, because that’s not our decision to make. We can’t make that promise. That being said, I can tell you I can count on one hand the books in the last five years that we were not able to get into retail. That’s because we know our sales channels very well. We know where we have our strong relationships. We know that it’s the business, health, self-help, parenting, and wellness titles that do well for us.

We are selecting on the front end based on our confidence in being able to sell it. We get it wrong every now and then, but not very often. If that is the case, since our authors own their rights, we also know that they’re not bound to us. If they decide that we’re a bunch of turkeys and they just want out, they have the flexibility to move around in the industry. More often than not, a traditional publisher will see that a book is doing really well, and they’ll swoop in and make that author an advance and offer the author, “Move over here to New York.” That happened a couple times.

They think that they don’t have to work as hard and they still work just as hard.

They will. It’s funny because in many of those cases, those same authors have returned to us to do their follow-up books. They experienced both approaches in terms of the traditional house is going to treat that person quite differently than we will due to the volume that they handle versus what we handle. They’re very different experiences

I find it fascinating to look at the different publishing groups. The quality was pretty impressive. I thought, “This is amazing. I’m going to have to check out your company.” I was glad that we had a chance to connect. I was hoping you would share with my audience how they can find out more about your website and just more information.

Our website is anybody wants to email me with questions or do you want to talk, my email is

Are you just going to let everybody send their books to you and you’re going to look at them? That’s a nice offer.

I don’t mind it. It’s fun and I have a team that helps.

Thank you so much, Tanya. I enjoyed our conversation. I’m glad that you were on the show.

Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.

You’re welcome.

Building Your Brand Image with Toi Sweeney

I am with Toi Sweeney who is an award-winning stylist, brand image strategist, and successful entrepreneur who puts professionals on the pathway to a more confident and coordinated appearance. With twenty years of hands on experience in the fashion industry, she tailors an individual results-driven approach to every client. In other words, she is the style director of their life. From funding her own design for her majesty, the Queen, to managing the image of almost 30 TV personalities in the leading home shopping network, she uses her background to tell original stories through fashion. Presented with the prestigious Telly Award and featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Main Line Today, and other mediums, she lends her style, expertise, and innovative approach to video production, web commercials, and print pieces. She’s also the author of Secrets of a Well-Dressed Brand: The Art of Increasing Your Perceived Value. It’s so nice to have you here, Toi.

Thank you so much for having me.

You’re welcome. We met at the Forbes Women’s Summit. We both attended that. That was quite an event.

I walked away with so many takeaways and was buzzing to set the world on fire. It was amazing.

They do a great job. I’ve been to a few of those Forbes Summits and each one is so unique. I was really impressed with looking at your bio and some of the things that you’ve done. You say that you are a brand and that your superpower is your product, your clothing is your package, and that packaging is one of the most visible ways to stand out from the rest. What do you do to help people improve their brand?

The first thing is to establish how other people see you already. If you were not aware of what your brand is or how people already are viewing you, then how would you take advantage of that and be able to leverage it and work it to your advantage? For so many years, especially in corporate America, it was all about your weaknesses and making your weaknesses stronger, reevaluating every year and beating yourself up. For me, I’m never going to be good with numbers. I’m so creative. Here are all my strengths, and they’re like, “We need you to sit here and just work on this spreadsheet for hours,” and it was mind-numbing. I love the fact that we sit down and we’d look at the things that you are doing right already, and then we just start to build your brand on those things.

One of the things that I use is the Fascinate Advantage by Sally Hogshead. She’s amazing. I’m a certified, fascination coach. That’s a first step in working with me and my team. We sit down and we do that so that we understand how the world sees you. Once we are very clear on how you’re already adding value, we start to take full advantage of that. Then we put together a very specific color palette, giving you brand colors that are unique to your sense of style. I administer a style test that I created that gives exactly your style formula so you know why you have those items in your closet that you’re not wearing. Even the ones that you may love, are they sending the right message? If they’re not, then we may want to take a look at that and see if we can tweak that a little bit. That’s how we get started. You end up with your branding anthem, you end up with the foundation for your personal brand, and then we start to dress the outcome in that way and dress your brand message.

If I’m the victor with my primary advantage being prestige and my secondary advantage being power, what do I need to do with my clothing and my choices?

I would look at your body type and things like that, just to make sure that we’re picking the right silhouette. We want to choose colors that are going to be very powerful. It’s going to depend on what you have lined up for that day. Maybe you’re giving a keynote, maybe you’re just meeting with perspective clients, but we want to look at colors that are going to send a very powerful message so that when you enter the room, you just completely, in a very approachable way, make people take notice because of who you are and all of the things that you’ve already accomplished. You do that anyway but your personal brand is going to enter the room before you do. It’s very important that you send that message from the moment you step foot into that room.

What if you like black? What if that’s what you’d like to wear?

Black is the ultimate power color. Black is about authority and elegance. I would put you in a lot of black. It’s going to depend on the crowd that you would be addressing that day. I always use the example of if you’re giving a keynote or a speech or you’re trying to influence people to donate money, let’s say for a children’s hospital, then that may not be the opportunity what we want to take to wear black. Black in itself is about authority, power, determination, and confidence. Black tells the world that you are independent and sophisticated. That would certainly be a color that I would put in your color palette. I would also put for you being the victor depending on your skin type, your hair, and your eye color, and pick some variations of these shades. Red is a great color. It’s very assertive and very confident. It’s a power color. We can equalize it out with ivory or white. Blue is a very approachable color as well.

Blue would be good if I was trying to get them to donate, right?

Blue would be good if you have something on camera, but what we would do is we would mix it. What I would do for you is I would mix your color palette on those days with maybe black and blue. I have black and navy story that just looks so beautiful, just power and confidence, but also sending the message that you’re caring. If you just mix those together, we could send the right message and accomplish what we needed to.

For men, what advice do you give them? I was looking at your Forbes article, you read BBC news article, all these articles. You’ve done some great things with helping men not be so stuffy banker dressed. Those were great articles. What advice do you give men?

Women have it a lot harder because we have so many choices. We have so many different things that can distract us, and then we’re always looking for the shiny thing and always wanting to follow trends. Men are the exact opposite. They have it so much easier because they don’t have as many choices, but most of them, not all of them, hate to shop. It’s like, “If you just tell me what I need to do, then I’m going to do it.”

I have a great story that just happened. If you go onto iTunes and you look at the review that is written by Jason Cruise. Jason Cruise heard a podcast interview that I did on Donald Miller’s podcast, the Story Brand Podcast. He heard me and he’s like, “I’ve written five books and I speak all over the world. I don’t even know if this is real. I don’t even know if I believe in what you’re talking about. I need you to make a believer out of me.” I said, “I’m not trying to sell you, but first thing I want you to do is to pick up my book. It’s 64 pages. It’s a lot of video. It’s super quick. I made it so that all of us who are super busy can just get through it, get the information, and move on.”

He picks up the book, called me back, and he said, “There are so many tips in there. Here are the changes that I made just from picking up your book.” One of his things that’s very interesting is that he doesn’t wear jeans. I don’t know any men outside of him that doesn’t wear jeans. “What do you hunt in?”“Khakis.”“What do you work in?”“Khakis.”“What do you speak in?”“Khakis.” In my book, there’s a whole section on the things that men should have in their closet.

Just a small tweak can make a huge impact. He just switched out his Khakis for navy and olive green. He said, “Toi, my wife said to me, ‘You look so pulled together. What happened?’” He said, “I called someone.” One of the things again with men is that they become these one-trick ponies. It’s just subtle, small tweaks in that if you just switch navy pants instead of Khakis, olive green, just things like that that are just going to break up so that you don’t look like everybody else when you go into the office.

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Self-Published Authors: It’s just subtle, small tweaks that are just going to break up so that you don’t look like everybody else when you go into the office.

I just don’t get the khaki thing to begin with because, first of all, I don’t like khakis. Second, the color, you just get dirty the minute you touch anything. I have a real problem with business casual because it’s all made so men can wear khakis and polo shirts. What do we wear? Pants are so uncomfortable for me, so I end up wearing a dress anyway because pants are too short. I’m 5’8” and they just never fit. You’re miserable but you’re supposed to be comfortable. That’s the whole point.

We did come up with that signature style for him that didn’t include jeans, which was a first for me. It was pretty fun to work on. For men, the fit is the second thing that tends to be an issue for them. It’s just wearing things that are too big because they want to be comfortable. That’s their number one thing. It’s trying to get them to a place where they can have something that’s tailored but not tight. There’s a difference. It needs to fit. Embrace your body wherever it is and then just get things tailored around that. The second thing is just wearing things that fit.

I was in Starbucks and I’m looking at this young guy in line. I’m looking at him and I thought, “You are dressed like a 60-year-old man. I would not have a problem with your outfit if you were in fact 60 years old. If you were 60, you actually would look pretty awesome with the way you have the colors.” I’m looking at him and I’m like, “Are you kidding me? It wasn’t anything bad. It was a dressier version of a Chino, and had on these penny loafers, and then the infamous polo shirt. He’s young.” I’m like, “Guys your age are mixing it up with fun socks and bow ties and great shirts. I’m not quite sure what you do for a living, but I think that if you told me you were the CEO of the company and you were 60 years old, I would say well done.”

A lot of people aren’t going to go for the bow tie and the too much stuff, but I see what you are saying. I remember when I used to help a lot of people when they were job hunting, and that was a big thing with men wearing the ties. When you have a tie, the point of the tie should be middle of your belt. Is that still the thing? Because there are these guys that have the really short ties or the really long ties. Where does the tie belong?

The rule right now with fashion is that a lot of the traditional things are out of the window. Sleeves are shorter for men right now, the pant leg is shorter for men right now, and so all those rules are out of the window, and it just depends on your style and what you can wear. If you’re looking for something that’s going to be a little bit more traditional, like how an Englishman would dress, things are going to be a lot tighter compared to the way the American men dress, and a lot shorter. Everything is a little bit shorter. Ties are skinnier.

We’re in a time where everything is so personal, which is great, but it depends on adding that personal brand into your style. A lot of the rules are out the window. Traditionally, that’s where it’s supposed to hit, but most men today, if they don’t have to wear a tie, they’re not going to wear one. A lot of the fine dining restaurants will allow you to wear dark denim jeans and a sport coat now, whereas before you couldn’t wear jeans. As long as they’re not ripped and they’re accompanied by nice, clean shoes, it’s acceptable. A lot of the rules have changed.

Do you miss the formality of the past? Do you miss the having to have a collared shirt and the way it was in restaurants? Everybody goes to the nicest restaurants and now you see them in shorts and jeans. What do you think of that?

I do a little bit because I don’t know one woman who have such an appreciation for a well-dressed man. When you see a man that is walking down the street and he had on that suit that fit him, even if he’s not wearing a suit, if he’s just wearing a great pair of jeans and a great pair of shoes and a great blazer or something that fits regardless of his age, when you see that, we just tend to smile for him. Getting dressed now is no longer the norm. You tend to stand out if you show up. If you arrive at any situation like you came to play, you’re already far ahead of everyone else, whether you are going on in the interview or not.

I attended a meeting and a good friend of mine, Dr. James Moore, showed up in the nicest outfit every day. Some people are wearing those big old sandals, and he had it together. He has his own radio show and podcast. You don’t get to see how they are in person too often and when you see that, you just go, “That really stands out.” I love to see that. It gets frustrating because the minute you finally adopt a style and you adopt whatever’s fashion, it has changed and then you spend all this money. Do you suggest spending a lot of money on main pieces to have in your wardrobe, or do you just go with whatever’s in style for that year? What’s the advice with that?

This is where I tend to get into trouble with my community because I don’t care about trends. It’s more important for you to be relevant than to be trendy. If you dress with the intention of your personal brand in mind, you will save yourself so much money in the long run. Going back to our original conversation, you’re going to have a specific color palette in your closet. You’re going to have specific items and silhouettes, everything’s going to work together, so that if you have to get dressed in ten minutes, everything in your closet is going to work together. You don’t have too much of this or not enough of this. You’re not searching for things.

You can just pull things right out. Then put that Steve Jobs rule into effect where you can just recycle those outfits every day. I don’t want my clients to wear the same thing every day because I do feel like if you have a brand right closet, then you can walk in there and pick up something and get dressed and ten minutes and take all of that decision fatigue away. It’s one less thing you have to think about. If you get to that point, you won’t end up with those issues. Again, it depends on what your brand is. If we’re saying that blazers are your signature thing, then that’s what I’m going to expect for you to invest in. Those are not something that you have to replace every year.

I wish I could wear your hair the way you wear your hair. If I look like you, I wouldn’t shave my head too, but I would probably scare people if I get rid of my hair. That must take a lot of time out of your day. I would love to write the book about if I blow dry my hair one more time, I’ll kill myself. It does take a lot of time. I’m curious why you did that. How do you differentiate your style if your hair is always the same?

No one has ever asked me that question. I love your beautiful mind. I try to walk the walk. I’m a real girl with real conversations. I got real girl problems. I got 45 minutes back in the morning because I decided to grow my relaxed hair out. Being natural is great, but it was so time intensive and very expensive. Then I had an opportunity where we were going to shoot this pilot for a makeover show. I thought I have to look the part. I felt like when I looked at myself, I didn’t look like a stylist. I want it to be more powerful and more authoritative, so I just decided to just shave my head. At that time, I had dropped 25 pounds. I had shaved my head and it’s a tiny bit longer now. Once my makeup artist did my makeup, it gave me a shorter time in the chair too. It was quite stunning. When I walk into a room, I stand out. How am I going to show up and say that I am a personal branding and style expert and then I don’t look like I am. No one’s going to believe that.

I’ve always worn my hair very long and then one year, I was only 35 and I thought I was getting old and I better cut my hair. I basically needed an elephant tranquilizer dart to get me to do it, but I did it. It made me feel old when my hair was short, and it was hard. It’s hard to wear short hair, because it’s much easier if it’s long. You ended up pulling it back, you do whatever you can do. It’s hard for a lot of men. I’ve seen the latest hair with men where they’d get almost like a mullet on the top that goes all the way long and then the sides are shaved. My husband loves that, but he doesn’t have the hair on the top to do it. What do you think men should do with hair? Do you mix it up? Do you just find what works for you?

You have to work with what the Lord gave you. I will never have your hair. My hair grows to my shoulder, and then it just refuses to go any longer. I look at you and I would love to have that hair. My husband shaves his head. He doesn’t grow his hair long. He’s never going to be able to have that look because he can’t do it. If you can do it, that’s an easy way for men to look relevant. That’s one of the things you can change very easily. It’s just hair. It’ll grow out, it’ll grow back. You can dress in a very classic way, but then maybe have a more relevant haircut. That small change can make a huge impact.

People can learn how to make a huge impact if they read your book. It’s The Secrets of a Well-Dressed Brand: The Art of Increasing Your Perceived Value. How do people find that and how can they find you?

For the book, it’s only sold on iTunes. There’s a ton of videos in there and lots of images and pictures. I’m really wanting to make it quick so that’s the way that we decided to do it. You can just go into iTunes, you can either type in my name, Toi Sweeney, or look up Secrets of a Well-Dressed Brand, and then connect with me on social. I’m Toi Sweeney everywhere except on Twitter, I’m Sweeney Toi. I love to help.

I enjoyed having you on the show. Hopefully, I’ll see you again at another event in the future.

I’m looking forward to it.

Thank you so much Tanya Hall and Toi Sweeney for being my guest. Tanya, you’re probably going to get more books in your mailbox. I hope they’re all good ones. I’m sure they will be because I have some great listeners and great authors out there. Toi, you’d probably get a lot of offers to help people with their makeovers and to learn how to dress for success. Great authors and great people on the show. We have so many interesting people that if you’ve missed past shows, you can go to my website which is and find more information about everybody who’s been on the show. The bios are all listed there. I hope you come back for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

About Tanya Hall

TTL 138 | Self-Published AuthorsTanya Hall is the CEO of Greenleaf. Prior to this position, she worked directly with Greenleaf’s authors to develop publishing strategies (including multiple New York Times bestsellers); spearheaded growth strategies including Greenleaf’s ebook program and the River Grove digital-first imprint; and built Greenleaf’s distribution organization, working directly with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest growing distribution businesses in the industry. Before joining the publishing industry, she worked in digital media and as a television producer for Extra! and E! Cable Networks.

About Toi Sweeney

TTL 138 | Self-Published AuthorsToi Sweeney—an award-winning stylist, brand image strategist, and successful entrepreneur—puts professionals on the pathway to a more confident, coordinated appearance. With 20 years of hands-on experience in the fashion industry, she tailors an individual, results-driven approach to every client. In other words, she’s the style director of their life. From founding her own design firm, Her Majesty the Queen, to managing the image of almost 30 TV personalities at the leading home shopping network, she uses her background to tell original stories through fashion. Presented with a prestigious Telly Award and featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Main Line Today, and other mediums, she lends her style expertise and innovative approach to video production, web commercials, and print pieces. She is the author of Secrets of a Well Dressed Brand.

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