#022: My Best Advice for First-Time Authors, Part 2 [Podcast]

In this episode, I continue with my best advice for first-time authors, which I began last week. Even if you’ve never thought about writing a book or don’t think you could, this episode is for you.

Man Who Is Experiencing Writer’s Block - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/domin_domin, Image #15140691

Let me provide a quick review of the last episode to give you some context if you are just tuning in. There are at least four reasons why you should consider writing a book:

Click to Listen


  • Reason #1: It can add value to others. Everyone is an expert at something. You may not be aware of it. Or you have forgotten that you know what you know. But you have something that could add value to others.
  • Reason #2: It can establish you as an authority. Nothing credentials you like a book. Not even a Ph.D. Having a book makes you an authority (at least in terms of the perception).
  • Reason #3: It can advance your career. It can help you launch a brand new one. A book often goes where you can’t go. It opens doors. It starts conversations. It creates opportunities.
  • Reason #4: It can create an additional income stream. Even if the book itself doesn’t generate a lot of money, it can be used to sell back-end services and other products.

The problem is that it can be tough to get published. My premise in the last episode was that becoming a published author begins by taking five steps:

  1. Step #1: Educate yourself.
  2. Step #2: Start building your platform.
  3. Step #3: Write a killer book proposal.
  4. Step #4: Consider your publishing options.
  5. Step #5: Find a good literary agent.

I want to spend the bulk on this session, answering questions from my listeners.

Listener Questions

  1. Andy Traub asked, “What does a really good publishing deal look like?”
  2. Bernd Geropp asked, “What should I consider when choosing an agent?”
  3. Brad Blackman asked, “What is the process for getting a non-traditional book like a coffee table book published.”
  4. Debra Smouse asked, “Should you let a publisher know that you have a body of work you want to publish?”
  5. Derek Ouellette asked, “Is it more difficult to get published by U.S. publishers if you are Canadian?”
  6. Donna Nabors asked, “Under what circumstances would you recommend self-publishing?”
  7. Tor Constantino asked, “Is it worth the hassle to get an agent and go through the process of traditional publishing?”
  8. J.E. Scott asked, “What comes first: building a tribe via the methods you describe in your book or seeking marketing assistance from a professional firm?”
  9. Jason Salamun asked, “Should a first-time author begin writing his or her book as they are building a platform or wait until it’s already built?”
  10. Joanne Kraft asked, “How much travel is too much as an author?”
  11. John Richardson asked, “To get the word out on my book, should I release the book about a week before I go live on my site? Also, can POD publishers ramp up quickly if there is an initial spike in sales?”
  12. Julie Sunne asked, “How important is it to obtain an agent as a first-time author if I can meet acquisitions editors face-to-face at different conferences?” She also asked, “What type of platform is best? Social media, speaking, magazines … what?”
  13. KC asked, “What do you think about e-books? Giving them away for free, building an audience? Length, etc.?”
  14. Kimanzi Constable asked, “Is a book tour worth it as a first-time author?”
  15. Kurt Bubna asked, “How do you press on and deal with publisher rejections without getting discouraged in the process?”
  16. Michele Dickens asked, “Should I just pour out my story or try to get an outline first?”
  17. Ryan Dobbs asked, “How important are endorsements and how can they be used to build a first-time author’s platform?”

Special Announcements

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A few weeks ago, I produced a free screencast called “How to Setup a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less.” This short video will take you through the process step-by-step. Trust me, anyone can do this. In the last ten days, I’ve had almost 200 people use this video to launch their blog.

Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

Show Transcript

You can download a transcript of this episode here.

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Question: What additional questions do you have about getting published? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

    Michael, young adult fiction seems to pose some difficulty when building a platform. Usually, these books are read by ages 12 and up. Blog-based platforms seem to thrive for adult non-fiction, for some adult fiction, but young adult fiction (particularly aimed at the teenage audience) seems like a really difficult genre to build a platform for.

    Any recommendations for building a platform directed toward that audience?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’m sorry, but I don’t. I really don’t have any experience with this genre.

      • http://www.clayproductions.com/aaron/ Aaron Johnson

        No problem. It’s a rough one for building a platform. The sites I’ve seen usually are more afterthoughts, built after the author has been published.

  • http://www.geemco.de/ Goetz Mueller

    Michael, I’ve been in discussion with a literary agency re. market potential for a book proposal (non-fiction). Unfortunately, they don’t think there is sufficient potential to carry  on but on the other hand they also aren’t willing to share any basis for their evaluation apart the result itself (which I can understand to some degree). Actually, I’m thinking about an online survey among my target group (project managers) to get another view, e.g. by disclosing a draft table of contents. However, I’m a bit concerned that this discosure might encourage someone to “steel” my idea(s). What do you think about that?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I think you would be better off sharing your ideas with a trusted group of advisors or individuals in the target market. I think you’ll find this more usable.
      Personally, I never worry about people stealing my ideas. There is very, very little that is original in anyone’s ideas. What is unique is how they express it and the life experiences they bring to it. The only exception to this is book titles. These can be unique and can be stolen.

      • http://www.geemco.de/ Goetz Mueller

        Many thanks for your prompt reply, Michael.

  • Stephanie Caraway

    How important is it for new authors to attend conferences, and if it’s really important, when should you start going? When you have a proposal in hand? When you have a basic idea but not much on paper yet?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I would go once I had a proposal in hand. It will make your learning more specific and applicable.

  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway


    In one of your responses in your podcast, you mentioned the importance of building a platform before launching your book. I agree. Having written Bible studies for Thomas Nelson for several years (for authors like Billy Graham, John MacArthur, Max Lucado, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Sheila Walsh, and others), I discovered that I had about 40 projects to my credit but my name was on more paychecks than products. I’m now playing catchup and attempting to establish my credibility as an author apart from being a ghostwriter for some people who have great platforms. It’s hard to build a platform retroactively!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      In my live seminars, I often quote the old proverb, “When is the best time to plant an oak tree? Twenty-five years ago. When is the second best time? Today.” The same is true of a platform!

      • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

        Love that quote! 

      • Jim Martin

        This is a great quote and worth repeating.  Thanks.

  • http://wellroundedhome.com/ Kacey Bess

    I’ve really enjoyed these two first-time author podcasts. Very informative and motivating. I’m considering the self-publishing route and am trying to come up with a rough timeline between now and the book launch. Once a book is written, how much time should you allow for editing and review, and what suggesetions do you have for undertaking this step?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I would allow a couple of months. You can find a list of editors in the Literary Marketplace or simply Google it. I would try a small sample (perhaps a chapter) with an editor first. See what they can do.

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    The big lesson/reminder is we all have something that other people want to hear.
    The “handy man” has skills that many do not have and others would like to know at least a bit of.
    Thank you for this episode Michael.

    K, bye

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      That’s a great point Christopher. It’s easy to take for granted the information and experience we’ve accumulated over the years. In fact, even basic elements from that experience have value to someone just beginning to research our specific area of expertise. 

  • http://theeverydad.wordpress.com/ Blake Taylor

    This is highly valuable information Mr. Hyatt. Thank you for your work. To springboard off of Christopher’s encouragment, what is your advice for people that want to have something to say but aren’t sure what people want to hear as far as book writing goes? I’ve become increasingly more passionate about writing and enjoy the process but I don’t have an inner message bouncing around my head, dying to ink itself on paper yet…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      My advice is to blog. This is the best way to discover your passion, find your voice, and build an audience. Thanks.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I got a quesion through! Now I’m going to Disneyland :) Thanks for answering my question Michael and thanks for these episodes, they’re very helpful for first time authors. Tons of value, I’m going to have to go back and re-listen

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       I agree, Kimanzi. Definitely something to listen to more than once.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Great, actionable advice as always Michael – thanks for being so generous with your expertise!

  • http://www.EpicGraceBook.com/ Kurt Bubna

    Thank, Michael! Loved this one and I really appreciated your answer to my question. Great wisdom and advice.

  • Jim Martin

    Michael, this podcast was extremely helpful.  Your willingness to share 30 years experience is very helpful.  Thanks for your generosity! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Jim.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    You are welcome, Donna.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    Feedburner stats have a section titled “Uncommon Uses.” I wonder if Podcast stats have a similar section. If not, they should. 

    Not being a native speaker of English, I maintain a little speech exercise regimen to keep my alien lilt to a minimum. For the most part, my regimen consists of listening to American native speakers on a device with a Pause button and imitating their pronunciation, speech rhythm, cadences, and mannerisms, sentence by sentence, so as to fine-tune my ears and my organs of articulation. 

     Some speakers, I find, are more suitable for this purpose and fun to work with than others, and Michael’s diction happens to sit exceptionally well in my mouth. So of late, the This Is Your Life podcasts have become my favorite speech practice tool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roncan Ron Cantor


    Hi Michael, I REALLY want to get your thoughts on this. I am a first time publisher with a real publisher. In a nutshell, using the principleS taught in PLATFORM I built online excitement about my new book IDENTITY THEFT. As a result a major Christian publisher offer us a full book deal two days after the self published version came out. Now, they are doing a fresh edit and cover and re-releasing it in the Spring w/ a marketing campaign. My question is this, before PLATFORM came out you had a “LAUNCH TEAM”…what is that? How is something like that developed and how does it function? The people who been reading my book are very loyal to the message and because I am constantly engage them, to me as well. I think they would be willing to help…but I need some advice as to what I am asking of them.Thank for all you do! I don’t think I would have been offered the book deal had I not employed the Social Media practices that you ‘preach’ THANKS AGAIN… and I look forward to seeing your response.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your interest. The launch team was essential for me. You can read more about it here.

      • http://www.facebook.com/roncan Ron Cantor

        Thank you Michael…By the way…very cool new form/email signup/pop up plugin at the button. Can you please tell me the name of the plugin?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Unfortunately, it’s not a plugin. It’s custom code. However, you can Google “catfish ads” (that’s what they are called, because they rise from the bottom). I saw one here, here, and here. I haven’t tried any of these, so I can’t vouch for how well they work.

          • http://www.facebook.com/roncan Ron Cantor

            you’re awesome…be blessed!

  • Aaron Earls

    Michael, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience with your readers and listeners. I was thinking about starting my publishing journey with a smaller self-published ebook. I had two question related to that.

    First, how should I go about handling copyright or the legal issues (or are those even issues)? Second, would it create difficulties later on if I tried to expand it and pursue a traditional publisher? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      The copyright is not an issue. The book is copyrighted from the moment you create it, though you may want to register it at some point. (You can Google how to do that.) It should not be a problem if you want to expand it and pursue it with a traditional publisher.

  • Kay

    Michael, your last two podcasts about first time authors have been very helpful to me. However, I sometimes have trouble distinguishing if I’m a “first time” author or not. I’ve actually self-published three books, two with Lulu.com and one with Crossbooks. I’ve had great success with all three books, at least in terms of self-publishing. But I really want to have my next book published with a reputable, traditional publisher. 

    Here’s the question:So as I seek an agent and publisher, do I talk about my self-publishing experience? Do I tell them about those books, which happen to link to the book I’m currently pitching? (Two of the self-published books are a Bible study and a devotional guide on the same topic as the trade book I’m pitching.) Do I ask them if they would also be willing are interested in republishing those books as well? Or do I just stick with the one trade book I’m pitching for traditional publishing? 

    Bottom line: Is my self-publishing past going to haunt me in the future as I seek a traditional publisher or help me?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, you’re self-publishing past will likely not haunt you. It’s too mainstream now. I would not have an agent consider more than one proposal at a time. Keep them focused. You want to make the decision easy. Adding more variables to the mix will make it more complex. Thanks.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com/ Margaret

    Thanks for this! My friend is a first time author and would definitely appreciate this

  • Stephanie Caraway

    Michael, I have one more question (likely more than one, but I’ll restrain myself). I am an unpublished author and very inexperienced. I have about 5 different nonfiction books with proposals and/or manuscripts in various stages of completion. Can I submit more than one proposal to an agent at once? Submit one proposal and indicate in the query letter that I have additional proposals ready for submission?

    Thank you so much for answering so many questions and sharing so much knowledge and expertise. You’re helping so many people.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I would pick your best one and focus all your efforts on that. Don’t mention the additional proposals. It will only slow the process down.

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    It is an honor to have my question aired and answered by you, Michael. Thank you. You have a heart of generosity to so openly share your expertise.  These podcasts are incredibly helpful. Blessings.

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

    This first time author series was VERY helpful. I have two questions I am hopeful you can answer:
    1.Are there better times of the year to publish a book then others – are there “prime times” for releasing books. For example, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th quarter, certain holidays, certain days of the week, certain times of the month, etc? Does it depend on the type of book?
    2. For self published books, would you recommend using a wide range of category choices (one being the most obvious category that a book falls under) or ONLY sticking to the ones that are all closely related when there is the option to pick a few categories?

    Twitter: @TheJenMcDonough

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      The timing totally depends on the subject matter. I would generally avoid late November and June and July.
      I would pick fewer categories rather than more. Keep it focused.

      • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

        This is AWESOME advice…thank you!

        One more question (ONLY if you have time).
        1. When you ask for reviews for on a self published book,  is it better to ask them to list on Amazon directly (I don’t think I can copy them off there for testimonies right?) and/or do I ask them to please list a review on my comment section on my website so I can use for multiple purposes? I would rather ask them to one or the other and am not sure what is best.

        Again, thank you!!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          You should take a two-step approach. First, you want endorsements to put on the book itself and to populate the Amazon page. You should ask for these to be sent to you directly. I would ask via e-mail.
          Next, you want reader reviews. You should ask people to post these on Amazon or any other retailer site. I wouldn’t ask for these in the comments section of your blog.
          Hope that helps.

          • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

            Yes, it was extremely helpful Michael!
            THANK YOU!!! 

  • Stephanie

    As the mother of three young daughters (ages 5, 3, and 4 months), I would prefer to see this information in a written format. Any chance you might transcribe part or all of the podcast in a future post?

    I like podcasts, but I also have little voices in my house all throughout the house. ;)

    • Stephanie

      Oops! I meant all throughout the DAY. 

      Apparently, it’s time for bed…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, they are all transcribed. Look toward the bottom of the post for the link.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    I would soft launch it in early December with a hard pub date on the first Tuesday after the first of the year. I would focus all the publicity, including blog reviews, media appearances, etc. into the first week of the launch (the week of the hard pub date).
    Hope that helps.

    • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough

      Yes, this helps VERY much. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!Jen

    • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

      Okay, okay, okay. I totally took your advice and officially launched Living Beyond Rich yesterday! Michael, thank you, thank you , thank you! The time of year was PERFECT! The response is WAY more than I anticipated between social media, blogs about the books, etc. Not that I am YOU, but I have to say, I was smiling when I hit 101 on my booklaunch team (total was 125). I KNOW you had over 700 apply, but it was just a FUN thing to SAY I had one more than the coolest former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and the Platform KING!

      • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

        Awesome, Jen. Congratulations!

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    That’s hard to say without further info. I definitely think giving away something away for free to build your list is a good strategy.

  • http://DebraSmouse.com/ Debra Smouse

    Thank you again, Michael, for considering – and answering – my question!

  • http://www.dwaynes--world.blogspot.com Dwayne Morris

    Can anyone weigh in on transitioning from publishing strictly on the Amazon Kindle platform to print publishing?

  • http://theforgotteninitiative.org/ Jessi

    Maybe someone has asked this question already, but her goes anyway.  How do you know if you have a good idea for a non-fiction book?  How do you find out if it is original enough or needed?  I feel burdened to write about a topic, but often times wonder is there already something else out there just like it?  This is all new to me so I am hoping you can help me know where to start. Also is there such as thing as having too narrow of a topic? 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s where I would start a blog. Use it as a “lab” to test out your ideas and see if you can build an audience.

  • Pingback: The Generosity Model for Growing & Monetizing Your Blog | Life, Prioritized()

  • Nora Jacques

    Hello, Michael – I was wondering if I decide to self-publish, can I later publish through a traditional publishing company? Also, what is the best way to get a literary agent? They seem selective.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you can definitely still publish through a traditional publishing house.
      Yes, literary agents are very selective. They have more business than they can handle. It all begins with creating a great book proposal.

      • Nora Jacques

        Thank you, Michael. Your podcasts are very inspirational. You will see my name again! Because I’m going to follow your book publishing guidelines to the T! :-)

        • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Nora.

  • Corine Hyman

    Just found this post. Any advice on how to lunch/market a Christian Children book as a first time author? Thanks for your time and wisdom.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Sorry, I don’t really have much experience with children’s books. Thanks.

  • Paul Ebbage

    hi Michael. I know I’ve come in late to the discussion, but just found your blog recently. it’s Great! anyhoo…a quick question. Are you aware if the preference for literary agents is to receive the whole book in draft or only a few chapters (personal growth book) so they can potentially guide you through the rest of the book in the style that they think will work better ? Paul

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, for non-fiction, just a few chapters. For fiction, the entire manuscript.