Today, I spoke with Phil Town, who is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rule #1 and the upcoming author of Payback Time, which debuts in September.  In this interview, Phil tells his own story of how he’s build his personal brand to be what it is today.  Also, he gives you the secret to getting a book deal and becoming a bestselling author, tells you how to invest in this economy and emphasizes the importance of social media in the world today.

Phil, how did you go from an average high school student pumping gas to a #1 NY Times bestselling author and world renowned speaker?

I took the path less traveled and followed my dreams. I wanted to be a soldier since I was a kid so I went in the Army and eventually was awarded the famous Green Beret and joined Special Forces. I liked some parts of what I did in Latin America and Vietnam but it wasn’t for me so I got out at age 23. I got a job as a whitewater guide because running drugs looked too dangerous.

I loved running rivers, living outside and I did that on a bunch of rivers for ten years. I had a lot of time off season so I started reading philosophy, got stoned a lot to discover the secrets of the universe, turned to meditation instead, lived in India and France in ashrams so I could ponder the absolute and eventually was so absolutely broke I took an offer to apprentice with an investor who taught me the right stuff and then I went off and made my millions. And then wrote about it so you can do it, too.

There are hundreds of thousands of books published each year. How were you able to stand out? What marketing tips do you have for authors?

“The key thing to understand about the publishing industry is that they don’t sell books, they publish them.”

Since they don’t sell books, they look for authors who can sell the books if they publish them. This ability is highly prized. They will pay you a lot of money for your book if you can show them how it will be sold in large enough quantities that they’ll not only get their money back but also make a profit. In my case, I had been on a speaker circuit with several seminar producers and over 2 million people had seen me already. Plus, the seminar producers raised their credibility by raising my credibility so they featured me in ads after the book came out and they put the book out to their subscribers …. all of which drove it to #1.

Here’s the marketing tip of the century: create a large group of fans who will buy your book before you write your book.”

In a horrible economy, what three pieces of advice do you have for hardcore investors and what three pieces do you have for a beginner?

  • For the hardcores: Be careful. The best investments are usually the one’s you don’t make. And only buy wonderful businesses and only when they are on sale. Then go do something else and wait for the price to go up as it inevitably will.
  • For the beginners: Ditto.

If you had to examine your personal brand throughout the past few decades, which decisions did you make that helped the most?

The decision to learn to speak in public. That led to being in front of people. That led to a book. That led to another book … and that will lead to a bigger audience. And that leads to a lot of fun.

The decision to commit. Commitment brings its own reward – in ways that are unimaginable things happen to speed you on your way. But you must commit.

You have another book coming out in 2010, and you’re already preparing now for it’s launch, with a Facebook page and Twitter. What role does social media play in your life now and in the future?

It is huge. Unimaginably huge. In two years I will not need a stage to speak on. My audience will be connected to me through social media and web 2.0. These are incredible democratizing tools that allow talent and skill to rise to the top. Learn how to use these tools. Do it now.

Phil Town is the author of Rule #1: The Simple Strategy for Successful Investing in Only 15 Minutes a Week! (Crown Publishing Group, 2006)—the #1 New York Times best-seller and’s top-selling business book of 2006. He heads the list of motivational speakers, addressing 500,000 people per year across the nation at the mega-seminar “Get Motivated.”  An ex-Green Beret and former river guide, Phil is a self-made millionaire several times over.  Town usually is found sharing the stage with the likes of President Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Colin Powell and Zig Ziglar, speaking to groups numbering 20,000.  His latest book called Payback Time: How to Outsmart the System That Failed You and Get Your Investments Back on Track, comes out in September.