Why Real Creativity Requires Significant Work, Part 1

I just returned from the Re:create Cruise 2011. We had a magnificent time aboard the Celebrity Century. The theme of the conference was “The Creative Life.” I was one of four speakers, including Pete Wilson, Ken Davis, and our host, Randy Elrod.

A Writer’s Desk - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pablohart, Image #743945

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/pablohart

I spoke on “The Role of Work in Creativity.” I began by telling the story of getting my first book published. I will share that with you in this post. In my next post, I will share the four principles, I learned from my experience.

The Work of Getting Published

In 1997, a friend of mine urged me to consider writing a book that would eventually become The Millennium Bug. He was a well-connected literary agent and was confident he could find several publishers interested in buying it.

So, I prepared a formal book proposal. He then began the process of trying to sell it. He pitched the book to thirty publishers. The first twenty-nine rejected it. I was discouraged and wanted to throw in the towel. My agent persisted.

Finally, Regnery, the thirtieth publisher, agreed to publish the book and offered me a contract. I was thrilled—until I realized I now had to write the book! That’s when the real work began (or so I thought).

The Work of Writing the Manuscript

I was determined to meet my deadline, so I mapped out a writing plan. I calculated how many words I had to write a day to meet the deadline. I worked from 4:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. daily and then went to my day job.

Unfortunately, as I approached the finish line, I started falling behind in my daily word count quota. It was becoming clear that I would miss my deadline. This was unacceptable, so I checked myself into an extended stay hotel for two weeks to finish the book. I wrote every day for twelve hours.

I then hired a professional editor to copy-edit the manuscript. Miraculously, I turned in my manuscript by the due date. I was proud of the finished work. I envisioned my editor saying, “Wow. This is the cleanest manuscript I have ever seen.”

I didn’t hear a word from the publisher for almost three months. Then suddenly, without so much as a phone call, I received the edited manuscript back in the mail. My editor had marked up almost every page with red lines and notes. Some pages were completely crossed out. My heart sank.

I hadn’t factored into my schedule time for the editing and re-write process. As I would later learn, this was a common rookie mistake. I spent the next thirty days—early mornings, evenings, and weekends—revising, editing, and polishing my manuscript. But I finally finished and resubmitted it to the publisher.

The Work of Promoting the Book

Six weeks before the official pub date, the publisher called. He explained that his sales staff had been unsuccessful in trying to place the book. “The bookstore buyers just don’t get it,” he explained. “They don’t know if it’s a computer book or a current events book. I’m afraid we are going to have to cancel publication.”

Drawing on my previous sales experience, I talked him into continuing with the book’s publication. However, he said it would be “a small print run of no more than 2,500 copies.” I was disappointed, but didn’t have another alternative.

Regnery then assigned me a publicist to help promote the book. However, she would not return my calls or emails. The publishing date was fast approaching, and I was growing desperate. Finally, another publicist called me.

After a brief introduction, she said, “Your original publicist is not going to work on your book. The publisher doesn’t think it has enough potential, so they have assigned it to me. Frankly, I don’t get the book at all.”

Great, I thought. Maybe this book is just not meant to be.

But, again summoning my best sales skills, I explained who the audience was for the book and why I thought it would work. She reluctantly agreed to write a pitch letter and fax it to the top media outlets. She didn’t seem particularly hopeful.

The Work of Success

To our surprise, radio and TV stations began calling to book me as a guest. In the first thirty days after publication, I appeared on more than one hundred shows. The book began to take off. Within the first week, the publisher had to go back to press.

Six weeks after publication, the book hit the New York Times bestsellers list, where it remained for twenty-eight weeks. During this time, I did more than one thousand interviews. Some days, I would do 12–14 interviews in a row. It was demanding and draining work. On top of that, I still had my day job.

(Sidebar: After turning in the original manuscript but before publication, I came to work at Thomas Nelson. I explained to my new boss that I had agreed to promote my book. He and I both assumed that this would require no more than 20–30 interviews, and then I would be done. Regardless, he agreed that I could do whatever it took. To his credit, he kept his word and supported me throughout the process.)

The book eventually sold about 360,000 copies. It was an incredible outcome for a book that almost didn’t get published. If I had known how much work the publishing process would require—both in writing the manuscript and in promoting the book—I am sure I would not have signed up.

In Part 2 of this series, I share some of the lessons I learned about creativity and work.

Question: How do parts of my story reflect parts of yours? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.jeremysconfessions.com Jeremy@confessionsofalegalist

    I can’t say that I realized how much work writing a book could be, but I doubt I could completely understand how much joy it brought you as well. Despite all the hard work I bet you are still glad you did it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am. I learned so much. It helps me to this day in coaching authors and other creatives.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      I believe writing book will be one of the mega projects in our life. It is not going to come easy but the satisfaction at the end will be life long

  • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky


    If only you’d written this post 6 months ago, I probably would have backed out too. I’m almost finished with the final round of edits on my book and I never thought that it would be like taking on a full time job and an extra kid. I felt like somedays that my subject was so clear in my head, but making someone else (like my book coach) understand the depth of the topic was a lost cause. Fortunately its become much clearer now.

    I’m excited to see your post tomorrow.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think writing a book is like most big projects in life—going to college, getting married, having kids, etc. If you knew what it was going to involved, you wouldn’t even try. Fortunately, we usually don’t count the full cost!

      • http://tomgrey.wordpress.com TomGrey

        Funny, this is true about many successful entrepreneurs as well. We probability cost/benefit analyzer types (like me) understand the many failures so much we discount success “rationally”, but perhaps with too little faith?

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        That’s true Mike! It takes conscious efforts to complete a book.

      • Sheri Schofield

        Michael, if you have to put in so much time promoting your book through interviews, how do you find time to write a second or a third book? Does most of the promotion come up front? Does there come a time when you can stop and write the next book? How do you afford all the travel these interviews take? Do you have an estimate on how long the promotion time lasts? I’m new at this!

        Sheri Schofield

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    I recently had the opportunity to speak with Max DePree, author of The art of Leadership, Leadership Jazz and more, about my own writing experiences. Max’s advice was very similar. He told me there would be much more work in the later stages and said, “don’t get discouraged!”

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither were any great books.

    Thank you for sharing Mike.

  • Anonymous

    The part that connects with me is about all the work in addition to the day job. My day job is preaching and teaching and writing. The problem is, it isn’t writing on my book.

    Your point about all the publicizing work kind of scares me. I don’t exactly know what it is like with a “real job,” fitting in all that work. But church leaders get kind of picky about the preacher’s time. So, I’m struggling with how to make all that work and yet still keep my main work with the local church my main work.

    I’m looking forward to your next post.

    • Anonymous

      BTW, when I talk about picky with the time. A lot of times preachers are considered on the job 24/7. There is no 9 to 5 and then go do what you want with the rest of your day. Anything a preacher does instead of preaching, teaching, studying, and having studies is assumed to be taking away from his preaching work. It’s a tough call.

      That, is why I’ve been focusing on my own time management as I pointed out in some other posts and comments.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        It might be worth having a discussion with your church leadership team about expectation. I think it is particularly helpful to assist them in seeing how this will be a benefit to the church.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        I think we need to draw the line to prioritze properly.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the trick here is not worrying too much about how it will all work out. The one thing I can assure you of, it will be different than you think! If your story is like most, it will take many negative and positive turns. The whole process is not so much about what you produce as about what you are becoming in the process.

  • http://twitter.com/karyoberbrunner Kary Oberbrunner

    Wow Mike! Thanks for sharing. It’s encouraging to know that a man of your talent has struggled in this way with the writing, publishing, and promoting process. As a published author since 2004, I’ve had my fair share of stuggles, unreturned phone calls, and set-backs. The key is to keep advancing. No one understands or believes in your work as much as the author does and so if the author loses heart, everyone else is in trouble.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Exactly! There are times when you feel like you are the only one who “gets it.” Even then, you wonder if you are a fool. But you keep doing the next right thing, and eventually, it works out. Not always to a positive outcome by external standards, but for the development of your gifts and character.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        So, this is very similar to leadership. It can be lonely at the top. If you don’t keep running well, others will have no one to follow. Your example sets the standard for everyone else to look up to.

        • http://twitter.com/karyoberbrunner Kary Oberbrunner

          I agree Steven. And as leaders we can’t complain. We just need to suck it up and keep going.

  • http://twitter.com/ScottWilliams Scott Williams

    This is such a great post and great encouragement… I have went through a somewhat similar process and I am just two weeks away from my book hitting stores. I appreciate the honest feedback and encouragement you gave me over lunch before I really dove into the publishing process.

    Writing the book is a serious process; however completing the process is very rewarding. I will receive my 1st copies this afternoon, by UPS. :)

    I appreciate your perspective and insight… It’s priceless. Now if I can just have a Michael Hyatt 360,000 copy happy ending. LOL Seriously, I’m just excited that a publishing company believed in the project.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Scott. Perhaps I should have included a disclaimer in quoting the 360,000 number: “Your mileage may vary.” ;-)

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HNWSWL3CKQFKP3F4OEE5ABZXTY Burl

        Just laughing when I remember that my first book sold 26 copies! And here I thought just getting it published would assure me a place on the New York Times Best Sellers List! When I re-read it now, I am not one bit surprised, but hey, at least I got that over with! Onward and upward!

  • http://www.indiebusinessblog.com Donna Maria Coles Johnson

    Thank you for this post. When my first book was published, I didn’t realize all the editing that had to go into it. I knew my editor would “look things over,” but I had no idea. I could not believe all of the work that ended up on the cutting room floor! And just when I thought we were done, I’d get another email saying this or that had to be changed. Whew! And there I was thinking I’d just turn in my final manuscript and hear from them in a few months that it was on shelves across America. LOL! Like you, I did not count on having to set aside weeks AFTER I’d turned things in, to re-do everything. I’m thankful she was such a perfectionist because the book is now one of the publisher’s best sellers. Thanks again for this post, and for all of your posts. They’re super!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. When I gave this talk on the cruise, several authors thanked me, because they thought they were all alone. Not so!

  • Otai samuel

    Michael, for me who is not yet there, the only thing i can say thanks you said no to the 29 rejection. You persisted because you had a goal set to achieve. See how many are benefiting from it now? Samuel Otai

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, and I could (and did on the cruise) tell the story of authors like Andy Andrews, who first book was rejected 52 times, including twice by Thomas Nelson, until we finally agreed to publish it!

      • LesaKMelchor


        Good morning!!! Do you have your land legs back yet? My office is swaying; I swear this room is floating on the sea! I think I hear a faint cry of a Jamiacan man asking me if I’m having a good time, mon! lol

        It will probably take a week to digest and contemplate the many things God spoke and showed me during the Cre:ate Cruise experience, but I wanted to share a few things while it was fresh on my mind. And, I encourage anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to attent one of your conferences to do themselves a favor and GO!

        I can’t thank you enough for all the wisdom I gained from 5 days in the presence of amazing new friends. As a first time writer, my ignorance of the process was almost bliss. I needed wisdom. It was as though God Himself sat down with me, through the lives and voices of the many people I met on the cruise for the last week, and prepared me for this new journey.

        Through your many stories and life lessons, I learned that this will be hard work and require tremendous discipline. I learned that sometimes people won’t embrace your projects with our same enthusiam and we need not be ashamed to push for the marketing of our purpose. You and Randy Elrod spoke directly to my heart when you explained that when passion and need intersect, our purpose will come forth. Confirmation is a beautiful thing. I was encourage by several people to follow God’s purpose for my life and tell my story irregardless of what other people think. As I listened to Ken Davis I was reminded that Jesus’ desire is for us to live Fully Alive, to never shrink in the shadow of mediocrity – ever! Pete Wilson’s analogy of Joseph in the pit with a questioning mind about God’s identity and goodness during tragedy left footprints imbedded deep in my heart. Every one of your wives showed a grace and kindness that is so rare. To sit and listen to our stories and offer such beautiful encouragement to keep moving forward was a tender asset that I will never forget. In my entire life, I’ve never had that many people give so much support to me on a personal level. I’m still speechless. I’m humbled and amazed that I was even allowed to enjoy something so profound and life changing.

        Your free flowing wisdom, shared with such humility and kindness, will be a memory I will cherish for a lifetime. I was particularly touched at how each speaker approached every one of the guests at this conferene with a heart to serve and help. No question was stupid, and every time I saw someone approach you guys, you were more than willing to give honest attention to their requests. My heart is full and my purpose is more clear than it has ever been.

        I truly thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for being an extension of God’s grace to me – to all of us. Your extended hand that helped me climb over a few difficult rocks proved that we all need a hand up sometimes. God is more than willing to oblige. And, although the content of the conference was more than fulfilling, what will live forever in my memory is the example of amazing character, sincere hearts, and a profound example of leaders who really live out creative connection with all people. I’m forever grateful.

        Love and blessings,


        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Wow. Thanks, Lisa. You made my day. It was awesome to meet you and hear your story. God has his hand on you. I so appreciate your teachability and eagerness to learn. Bless you!

  • Dale Schultz

    Your talk on the cruise was a timely reminder for me as I’m honing my book proposal. There is strong encouragement in the reality of work.

    Hearing, then today reading, your words reflects my soul-care in these final weeks of a Spiritual Renewal Leave. As I’m preparing to return to pastoral doing, I am deepening my discernment of the intentional work of being. There is a tandem relationship between Christian doing and being that isn’t oxymoronic. It’s the reality that soul-care (like soul-tending and soul-leading) requires persistent work to be effective. The work of success is the work of effectiveness.

    (My son, Wes, appreciated your words as a Baylor grad to a freshman Bear. Thanks!)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dale. I enjoyed meeting you. I also appreciate your words here about the paradox of rest and work. That in itself would make for a great blog post. Hmmm.

  • http://twitter.com/suranjansoans Suranjan B Soans

    Hi Mike, I love your blogs, and the blog design etc. Simply classy! Just wanted to offer some thoughts on this one in particular because this is a topic that has bugged me for a while.
    I am not opposed to work, but opposed to toiling and sweating. If you look at the book of Genesis, toiling was a curse put on Adam by God. Fast forward to the book of Is–I think chapter 53, 4-6–you will notice that Jesus came to redeem us from that curse. Also you may look at Mat: 6, 24-33.
    If you think about it, if the Holy Spirit is living inside of us, then why should there be so much toiling and sweating. Isn’t God working thru’ us? Does God have to huff and puff to get things done?
    This is my opinion: When you are perfectly in line with the assignment God has ordained for you, then your “work” will be done with very little toiling and sweating. What a carnal person is able to do in 8 hours, you should be able to do it in, say 2 hours or less–that is if you are really allowing God to work thru’ you. Keep sending these blogs. Love them. :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Suranjan. My work was easy compared to my friends in Ethiopia who, even as committed, Spirit-filled Christians, have to walk five miles to get a can of clean water. Their days are consumed with hard, difficult labor. Yet, they have such joy and peace in the midst of this.

      I don’t think that Jesus redeems us from hard work. He redeems us from the meaningless of hard work. And he promises to give rest to our souls.

      Look at the Apostle Paul’s work (and suffering):

      “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, inperils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (1 Corinthians 11:23–28).

      Yet this was the work God gave him to do. And he also says in Ephesians 2:9–10:

      “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

      Many stop with those two verses, but the next verse says,

      “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

      Any work, when committed to God, can become good purposeful work. But it is work nonetheless.


    • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

      Interesting perspective. :)

      While I certainly believe that God works through us and does supernaturally. I don’t think it is always a matter of ease. Our bodies require rest and they will get tired — even when/while we’re doing God’s work. Not because God isn’t working through us, so to speak, but maybe because God wants to teach us endurance. And maybe it’s just simply how our bodies were built [after the fall].
      Obviously we need to be careful where we lay that because it shouldn’t constantly be at the expense of our family. Also, not every good thing is a God thing [for us].

      Again, I don’t want to belittle your perspective because it is definitely true at times. But I don’t believe it is always the case that as long as we’re doing God’s work there won’t be sweat and turmoil. :)

  • http://felicitywhite.com Felicity White

    Looking forward to your advice. Hopefully that’s because I know I’m high on creativity and low on work – not because I now have an excuse to procrastinate until tomorrow before getting started on my own work! : )

  • http://twitter.com/susiedavis Susie Davis

    Writing does present as dreamy and glamorous but it’s more often hard and lonely.
    Thanks for sharing the backside of your success story.
    Little bits of hope planted here.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great. I wanted to offer hope.

  • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

    Well, one thing is certain. I will not try to publish a book until my children are older!

    In the mean time, I have plenty of time to build my platform! :-)

    Thank you for sharing your story. It gives a real picture and a hope!

  • David Drury

    Hello Michael… Thanks for this post – I remember allthat Y2K fervor

    The similarity to my journey is that right now I’m holed up out of state from dawn to midnight fininshing up my 5th manuscript (4th published contract)

    I feel your pain (right now)

    Thanks for all your writing on writing!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, David. I find that too often people throw in the towel right before they experience a break-through. Much of life is simply not quitting!

  • http://www.verythere.com Mark Notess

    Michael, as a new follower of your blog, I don’t know whether you’ve addressed this elsewhere or not. I think this post is very helpful in terms of process and planning. But I’m wondering how you feel today about the book itself. Certainly it was a successful product in the marketplace, but are you happy with the perspective you took on the whole y2k issue? As a potential author, I think about whether, in 15 or 20 years, I’ll be happy with a strong position I took on a topic when I was younger.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great question. I honestly struggled with that in writing the book proposal. But, in the end, I felt that I was being faithful to what I was called to do. My hope with the book was two-fold: (1) that people would take the problem seriously and that it would get fixed, and, (2) if it didn’t get fixed, people would be prepared.

      Fortunately, the problem did get fixed. If there’s one mistake I made, it was that I underestimated the progress that was being made to remediate the problem. But I wasn’t alone. I testified before Congress and met with several government officials, military advisers, and corporate IT executives. Almost everyone believed the problem was serious and demanded significant action. Several very knowledgable people confided in me that they feared the worst.

      Obviously, the book is irrelevant now, but I think it served it’s purpose at the time.

      • http://bentune.blogspot.com/ Ben Tune

        As an IT professional, I remember seeing that book. I think I even skimmed through it. I never realized you were the one who wrote it.

      • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com AbbessBrown

        My husband is an IT security engineer … and he was not allowed to leave the state over the New Year’s holiday that year. We really missed him — and there was no crisis! Their team sweated bullets over that whole Y2K deal.

  • http://www.theanimusproject.com Jamie O’Donoghue

    Wow! My hat comes off to you for perseverance. How many times did you throw in the towel and have someone talk you back into it and who was that someone?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I almost threw in the towel a dozen times. I didn’t even write about the criticism that came with the book or the interviewers who ambushed me or didn’t bother to familiarize themselves with the book. (Most won’t read it.) Regardless, almost always, it was my literary agent, David, or my wife, Gail, who talked me into persevering when I wanted to quit.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FJRLITL5IEFHDDFURAESLXOOZ4 Jim Whitaker

    I can totally sympathize with you. Many times I have worked hard to get someone to buy into an idea only to learn that I have to work harder now that I have gotten the okay to do it. I remember when someone at work approached me and started to talk about how impressed they were with my organizational skills and went on and on and on about how unorganized that they were and wished that knew what I did. That was when the bright idea hit me of offering to teach a class to folks on time management and organizational skills at the office. I discussed with management and got the okay to do it during lunch. Then it hit me. I have to have a lesson plan. I have to have handouts, and notes and lecture material…….WHAT WAS I THINKING? After I took about 20 deep deep breaths. I final made a plan to plot out the class. I created lecture notes. Reviewed the notes with friends and co-workers. From the final notes, I created handouts. Then after the class was ready, I had then find a way to get people to it. So began the guerilla marketing. Since it was not an official class that work was offering, I could not use normal channels to promote. So began the underground campaign through e-mail and word of mouth till I could teach the class. Then 8 weeks later, the class was over, I was thinking about “what was I thinking” when I was asked to do it again. Needless to say it taught me a good lesson about thinking about what I am getting myself into before I get myself into it. Thanks for the post today, I am looking forward to tomorrow’s post. By the way, hope you had a great trip and Meg did a great job in your absence.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, JIm. That is a great example.

      I am indeed thankful to Meg for moderating in my absence. I am proud of her (and all my daughters) in a million ways.

  • http://www.irunurun.com Travis Dommert

    Does any new author get published in the first dozen pitches or is this pretty common?

    Sounds VERY challenging, and reminded me of some stories in Jack Canfield’s book (The Success Principles) that mentions the tenacity and perseverance required to succeed as an author. He mentioned another best-seller who was turned down hundreds of times.

    Thanks for the reminder to “never give up if you believe in what you are doing” …oh yeah, and the other more subtle lesson: “Don’t quit your day job!” :) -Dreamer with a day job

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think it is very rare for an author to land a deal on the first dozen pitches. It occasionally happens, but it is usually not good for the author. There are few things more insufferable than those who find success early.

  • http://LiveIntentionally.org Paul Steinbrueck

    Wow, Mike! That’s a great story – very inspirational to anyone who has faced a rough road to publishing or any dream for that matter! Kudos to you for your perseverance and determination!

    I’m curious, as an introvert how did you feel about doing all those interviews day after day? I know you wrote in the post that those days were draining, but were they also exhilarating? Did you look forward to each day? Or did you have days where you dreaded getting up and wished the book hadn’t been so successful?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think I experienced the full range of emotions. The first time I was on CNN, I was exhilarated. Of course, I couldn’t sleep the night before, but I was running on pure adrenaline. But, I also got worn out and discouraged. At the time, I didn’t realize that, as an introvert, this just happens when you are tired. I could have managed my energy better, but mostly, I was just trying to hang on to the ride without getting thrown off!

      All in all, it was a great experience. I was enormously privileged and learned so much from it.

  • Janelle

    I have a dream of my words between glossy covers. Reading your beginning story scares me. Knowing what you know…was it worth it?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. The way I made it through was by reviewing my dream every single day. (I’ll talk about that more tomorrow.) If your dream isn’t bigger than the work required, you simply won’t get it done.

  • http://www.StephanieLJones.com Stephanie L. Jones

    Excellent! Excellent! This is just what I needed to keep pressing with a project that has tried to break me down for the last 18 months! Thank you Michael!

  • Karl Mealor

    This is a great story, but it almost makes me NOT want to write a book. Is every book-writing process this painful?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I can only speak for myself, but, yes, though in different ways. Part of what makes it painful is your expectations, which I will talk about tomorrow.

      • Karl Mealor

        Reminds me of something a man that used to go to our church would say: “Everyone wants to ride the fire truck in the parade. Very few actually want to fight fires.”

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Love that quote!

  • http://twitter.com/BrettVaden Brett Vaden

    I am 28. My journey in writing is just beginning (my first article is in revising stages). What I’ve already learned from writing has been profound: it is a work of the soul; it takes passion. Your story sounds grueling, but it gives me hope.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks. I think it is much like a marathon. (Maybe that is why I like running so much.) You have the preparation, the training, and then the challenge of the race itself. But at the finish line, most would say it was one of the best things they have ever done.

  • http://www.spencesmith.com Spence Smith

    it’s like the moment of truth… you come up with an idea you believe in and someone actually agrees with you and then you have to deliver… oh yes. went through that on my first big tour with compassion ten years ago. I wanted to pass out packets to people who raised their hands instead of putting them on seats in an arena, which in a big arena felt wasteful (people discard them and walk on them… those little sweet faces) my bosses thought they had just hired a drummer who hit himself too much with drumsticks… How many packets a night will you need they asked? ummm… about 500-750 a night? they finally went for it and it paid off. our sponsorship numbers tripled and now it’s standard practice for us world wide.

    Thinking up the idea was the easy part… the work was coming up with a creative way to convince the powers that be that it was worth the effort.

    Your book was worth it and much needed… thanks Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Spence. What a terrific story!

  • Kennethacha

    Thank you Mike. Your advice is very timely for me but scares me tremendously. I am almost done with the manuscript of my biography. Many people who have heard my testimony have encouraged me to write a book that would bless others. Now, after reading your advice and listening to your interview with Dean, I am truly at a loss of what to do seeing that I didn’t do a proposal. I’d get the ebook and read though. But here is a brief summary of my testimony. Please you or anyone else who reads it, feel free to give me some feedback… email… kenneth (at)shapingdestiny.org
    I was born and grew up as an underpriviledged kid in a remote village in Cameroon Africa. My father (breadwinner) and kindergarten teacher passed away when I was 9. Our family plunged into poverty and we didn’t have enough to eat, when I was sick, no medical care, no clothes (I couldn’t even go to church b/c of that), I dropped out of grade school because of lack of $10 worth of tuition and was bullied regularly by other kids at school who knew that I had not father…
    Fast forward… through a series of miracles (I believe), God sent someone not related to me to come and ask me to return to school (he would pay the tuition) a year after I first dropped out.
    I did, and dropped again. Then because of passion I had developed for learning then, I tried to hide behind the classrooms and attend lectures without having paid tuition, hoping money would come in the future. I got caught and I was afraid that I was going to be severely punished. It turned out for my salvation, this kind teacher who caught me discovered my plight and took me to live with him. This saved me 2 hours travel to school daily. He paid my tuition as well. With him I began to perform excellently at school and won scholarships.
    Fast forward… With miracle after miracle, I graduated from high school as valedictorian and God opened a way for me to come to the U.S for studies. I arrived in NY, NY with $200 and that was enough for me to take Grey Hound from NY to Houston (took me three days).

    In Houston, I had no dime, knew no one. But God helped me to survive.
    In two years, I became born again and started my journey with God. I had some amazing encounters with hearing God clearly after this point. Ended up moving from college college to attend Rice University, one of the nation’s best universities.
    From there, I was accepted into medical school as one of only two students accepted without graduating and obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

    Right before medical school, God gave me a call to serve orphans with the rest of my life.
    He led me to start an organization, http://www.shapingdestiny.org that servers orphans. Now, as a physician, I felt God totally call me to committ fully to serving orphans and to pastoring and I left full-time practice of medicine and I am in seminary school, obeying God in the process. I should finish in a few months and will be planting a church. In the meantime, I have stayed committed to the orphanage I started back in 2005. I used my student loans in medical school to start it with three children, now it has grown 85 children in the orphanage, 80 more coming in in September, and many more being serve outside the orphanage.

    My call is radical, love the orphans like our own biological children… and I plan to live in the orphanages everytime I am in the country. We are working on starting in other countries…

    In this summary, I have left out many amazing details of God’s working…

    Now, somebody please advice if you can…

    Thank you!

  • http://jancoxabetterway.wordpress.com Jan Cox

    It is 6am here and I am exhausted reading your post – but exhilarated at the same time. If you are passionate about your work and if God approves – He can move mountains. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That was exactly the emotion I was hoping for!

  • Tonia

    I too went through the nine month “birthing” project of editing, re-editing and promotion for my book – Designed with Your Purpose in Mind (Tate Publishing). But like the birth of a child, it is all worth the pain and labor that goes into it!

    And YES, like parenting, you learn by the mistakes you made on the first one and vow never to make them again!

  • http://www.iancron.com Ian Morgan Cron

    A few years ago at a dinner party I sat next to Wallace Stegner’s editor. He was 93 when I met him and sharp as a tack. In the old days, he said editors, especially in a boutique house like Farrar, Straus and Giroux, were mentors, coaches, cheerleaders, disciplinarians and often best friends with their writers. This man had been Wallace Stegner’s editor for many years and wiped away tears when he spoke about his death. (BTW, go to Wikipedia and take a look at the authors and books Robert Giroux edited. It will make your jaw drop!)

    He said editors once prowled around for and signed talented young writers and sometimes “blew on the embers of their promise” for years before they wrote anything worth publishing. When they got going, the author and editor were joined at the hip and worked on a book the way George Martin and the Beatles worked on records. Man, I wish these kinds of deep relationships between editor and writer still existed in book publishing! Maybe top writers have these people but the working stiff writer doesn’t.

    Writing is insanely hard, if not tortuous. To have “a Rabbi” (as my dinner companion referred to good editor-coaches) in your life that called the best out of you not just because there was a deadline (which is important to have!), but because they believe you have something important to say would be incredible.

    This guy said two things to me that night I won’t forget. “There’s no such as good writers, only good re-writers” and he quoted Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

    Pretty true.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Beautiful comment, Ian. Stegner is one of my favorites. Beautiful writing. Robert Giroux was a giant of a publisher. Sadly, he stood out because he was so rare. I can count on one hand, the editors I know who invested themselves in writers this way.

    • LesaKMelchor

      I love your post. I’m very thankful I have a good editor working with me in much the same way you described. She has forced things out of me that I didn’t want to write about. She has held my hand and encouraged me when I wasn’t very confident in my writing style. And, she has wept with me during both struggles and triumphs. I’ve been very blessed to have her and thank God for the direction He knew I would need. I love the Hemingway quote. I can see drops of blood in my future! :)

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    Mike, that cruise sounds exciting!

    The real work for me is in the marketing. I had no idea that marketing was so grueling and I’ve only scratched the surface of the process for my book that came out the beginning of March. Your story gives me hope because your publicist barely lifted a finger, yet God did all the heavy lifting. It is truly amazing what God can do when we let go and give Him a little elbow room to work.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I often think that we experience such tremendous obstacles for the sake of others who claim their path is impossible. If you want a great story, you must overcome tremendous adversity.

  • http://bentune.blogspot.com/ Ben Tune

    I write often, but I rarely publish what I have written on my blog. I agonize over almost every word to make sure it’s perfect. Reading your comments about the editing process make me cringe. It makes me remember how I felt when I turned that “perfect” paper into my teachers in school and they returned them stained with red marks.

    Since the editing process seems to be so grueling, does it make more sense to simply write first and then go back to edit? How much is enough before the writer turns the book into an editor for review?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely! Write first, edit later. Do not try to do both at the same time. The former is a right-brain activity; the latter, a left-brain activity. I am over-generalizing, but you get the point. Like any other important endeavor, writing requires courage first and creativity second.

  • Skeptical

    I sympathize with Edwin Crozier’s earlier remarks. As a pastor, it’s nice to plan out an ideal week. I did that thanks to your post earlier this week. But it’s so far from reality as to be laughable. Here, it seems to me, is a great deal of the problem for pastors: preaching is not only hard work, but it’s also creative work. As as such, it’s unpredictable. I’m sure that’s true of other professions, but being a pastor is all I know.

    In my ideal week, Thursday is my writing day. I have a book project going that I really want to see published. Now, if everything works well and I’ve got the bulk of my two Sunday sermons done (we’re old-fashioned and actually go to church on Sunday evening!), then I can take Thursdays to focus on writing. But then there’s that problem of sermon preparation. It’s so unpredictable. Some weeks I can work on a passage for a few hours, understand it, immediately think of three or four excellent illustrations, and by Wednesday morning I’m building up steam to preach this thing!! I can’t wait until Sunday!

    Then there are weeks like this week (and like most weeks). The text is difficult. I work on it for hours and hours. I turn to the commentaries and they say, “This is a really difficult passage.” I’m stuck. My writing day becomes the day for more study. I’m still stuck. I’m praying for an enlightening miracle today and tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, I have to care for people who are hurting, in the hospital, and whose marriages are falling apart.

    The ideal week and time to write is kind of like the ideal sermon. It’s a nice theory, but it ain’t gonna’ happen. Please pray that I’m delivered from cynicism.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Cynicism kills more careers (and creatives) than all other causes combined. It is the cancer of the soul. It contributes nothing and extracts everything. Refuse to give into it. It is a tool of the Resistance. (By the way, if you haven’t already, read The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. It is must reading for anyone who is trying to be creative in the midst of an already-busy life.)

      • Skeptical

        Yes, I’ve read Pressfield’s The War of Art. But I can’t make it happen. Exhaustion and a thick “fog” over my brain destroy everything I try to do.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          It sounds to me like you could profit from a good night (or several nights) of rest. When we get tired, the first thing that usually goes is our perspective. I wish I had learned this earlier in my career.

          • Skeptical

            It’s a great idea. In fact, Michael, you have excellent ideas. But they are far from the reality I have to cope with each day. I planned to take today off to rest, pray, and regain some (much-needed) perspective. But before I could leave the house and its distractions, an e-mail popped up from someone in the church. Now I’m headed to the hospital. Like the motto of our local coffee shop: “Drink coffee now. You can sleep when you’re dead.”

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            So what are your alternatives? Seriously.

          • http://www.franklinonfoot.com Margie

            Just from the outside, Skeptical, it seems to me that all the joy of life has been sucked out of yours, and you’re in the “business” of being the bearer of joy. Hmmm….

          • Matt Morton

            Skeptical, I am also a pastor and can resonate on some level with your concerns. However, there are a few key ideas that have helped me a bit.

            First, I’ve noticed that ministry has seasons of craziness and seasons of calm. I do my best to take advantage of those calm seasons — I write, rest, and generally catch up with life. In the crazy seasons I do my best, but try not to feel guilty if things don’t happen according to plan. The reality is that sometimes life sabotages our well-laid plans. I can either be cynical and angry, or I can accept that the Lord had a different plan for this week or this month, and pray for a better one around the corner.

            Second, if I’m planning a day of rest or refreshment, I try not to even check the email or answer the cell phone. I set my email account to respond with an automated reply, and give the number of another staff member or a congregation member who can help in case of an emergency. And I try to train others to step in when I must be gone. It’s simply impossible for one person to bear the load of an entire congregation all alone.

            Many “emergencies” turn out not to be as critical as they initially seem, and people figure it out without you — or they wait 24 hours until you return. If it really is extremely critical, there are certain people (my assistant, my wife, etc.) who can reach me and let me know of the issue. Occasionally that does happen, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

            Finally, Michael is correct that writing is a discipline, like many things (prayer, reading Scripture, etc.). I set aside an hour here, or an hour there, and make it sacrosanct. Again, exceptions occur, but if you set up the right patterns, they are just that — exceptions.

            I do sympathize with you — preaching is tough, creative work. There are times you have nothing left in the tank, but there are times that you do, and you can make the most of them.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Thanks, Matt. I think this is very constructive advice.

            I experience this on a weekly basis, though in a much smaller way. I teach a weekly Sunday school class. It is captured on a podcast and downloaded by 5,000 people a week. I feel the pressure to come up with compelling content, and it is certainly not easy. There are many times that I want to quit.

            As a volunteer, I understand that this is very different form a pastor who is a paid staff member. Still, I understand (in some small way) the pressure to be creative on a week-to-week basis.

            Thanks again.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            There are two thoughts that came to mind that I wanted to send your way.

            The first is in a story that reminds me of a necessity – I just posted it to my blog for you (since it is too long for a comment). http://stevencribbs.com/life-can-be-so-discouraging/

            Second, I have been reminded that these are times to involve others. We cannot do everything. Even the apostles had to delegate some of their responsibilities so that they did not neglect what they were called to do. Maybe there is someone that is supposed to help with things like hospital visitations. Maybe there is someone who is supposed to take a sermon for you.

            You are not alone.

          • TNeal


            I went to your post and enjoyed the story you shared. Challenging.


          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            Hi Tom,
            Thanks for reading my post. That story has always encouraged me and challenged me – reminding me of where I need to be.

  • Donbrobst

    It is difficult to believe that Michael Hyatt struggled through the publishing process … ever! This article is extremely encouraging to me, having recently finished the rewrite and final editing on my book being published by Westbow Press within the next several months. It is the culmination of more than two years of work.

    I was quite proud of my original manuscript, much of which does not even resemble the final product. In my case, the rewrite took me five months, part of which I spent isolated in a New York City apartment with no distractions as I pored over the edited pages word-by-word.

    The markup of the document returned to me for the first rewrite contained literally thousands of bubbles in the right margin with suggestions and admonitions that were, at times, difficult to endure. But as I wrestled through the words that were so dear to me, I learned to trust the professionals and quickly gained a new appreciation for the skills of the editing staff at Westbow Press—they challenged me to pen my true thoughts and share my very heart.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for that testimony!

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      These stories make me wonder how an average person with a story to share ever gets through the process. Maybe the whole point is to “pen my true thoughs and share my very heart” and then trust God to work out the rest. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • http://twitter.com/kpalmer71 Kerry Palmer

    Thanks for sharing your experience in such a transparent way. This is a post I plan to re-visit anytime I get discouraged and want to throw in the towel.

    I’m glad you had a great trip!

  • Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for sharing the story of your book writing journey. It sounds like it was quite interesting.

  • Kirk

    Michael, thank you for sharing your story. I am a rookie book writer and your story not only inspired me, it helped me normalize my journey of trying to get my book published. The parts of your story that spoke to me the loudest were the unexpected set backs, your disappointment andbeing faced with the choice to either give up and justify your decision OR believe in your vision and passionately but wisely push through. I have been encouraged by several C-level executives and a well-connected literary agent to write my book. I have been working with a ghost writer who I was hoping could coach the book out of me only to find out either that is not a real expectation or I have the wrong ghost writer. My ghost writer, after numerous hours, has told me she does not think my book is worth shopping to publishers and I should consider an e-book. My friend who is a well-connected literary agent says I have the wrong ghost writer? Either way, it is both a huge time and emotional set back that leaves me with a choice…guess which one I am going to choose! Thank you again for sharing your story!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you, Kirk. The naysayers are there to add texture to your story. Because of them, you will one day be able to encourage another generation of writers who would throw in the towel without your own story.

  • Anonymous

    Wow – it really helps to see the concrete steps and amount of work it takes to get a book going. I can’t imagine that many interviews and the lesson about “rewriting time” was a huge one. I can’t say enough about how helpful this blog is because of how much detail you share about whatever process your writing about. Thanks very much!

  • http://www.kristyblogs.com/ Kristy K

    What a great post! I’ve in the beginning stages of this journey (very, very beginning) and I have to admit, all these rejection stories make the process seem painful. It’s reassuring to read all that your book achieved after all the bumps in the road. Frightening, but reassuring. :)

  • http://www.PurposeDrivenBroker.com Dan Foster

    Mike this is an amazing story of hard work and determination. Thank you for sharing it and for the encouragement it gave me this morning. – Dan

  • http://chrisvonada.com chris vonada


    I Couldn’t help but laugh (with you) half way through reading this one. God put the passion in your heart to write and you had the faith to follow through!

    Keep Being Great,


  • Jennifer

    I didn’t realize all that publishing encompasses. Looking forward to the next post and all the great information. Thanks for sharing this….It’s enlightening!

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    I just finished the final manuscript for my book. Since I am self-publishing, there seems to be a lot less stress, or even work involved. But of course, there are a lot less benefits as well.

  • http://mirrorsandwindowsnow.blogspot.com/ Alicha

    Okay~ this is one of those wacko/off comments ~ BUT~ Did you say you were going on a cruise? BECAUSE Sunday night I had a dream I was on a cruise and you were there and I was so nervous I couldn’t even speak to you! I woke up the next morning, read your blog and to my surprise discovered you were on vacation.

    So, I told my husband about my dream and he said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if Michael Hyatt was actually on a cruise! ~ Too, too funny! I’ll be riding this “clairvoyant” trolley around my house…until the next time I’m proven wrong about something I predict or dream ;)~ I give it a day.

    Anyway, ON TOPIC ~ I’m one of those second kid syndrome persons…nothing has EVER come easy. So, although I’m scared by what’s coming with publishing book(s) it’s kinda my M.O…That said, Lord, it’d sure be nice to be one of those “insufferable few” you mentioned a few comments back!

    Looking forward to Part 2 and good to have you back!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Alicha. The cruise was a blast, and I loved interacting with the aspiring authors. You’ll have to come next year!

  • http://www.blogintheshire.blogspot.com Joules

    Would you mind describing your process in finding/hiring a copyeditor to work with? Thank you so much.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      For me, being in the publishing industry, it was pretty easy. I already knew tons of editors, so I just hired the best one I knew.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Great information! As I try to get my book outlined, it’s great to know just what the process might look like down the road. Loved the personal side of this post. Thanks!

  • http://tomgrey.wordpress.com TomGrey

    Since writing my book (The Peaceful Marketeer; or perhaps The Employment Maximizing Company) is not so important to me, and of course I fear rejection/ poor readership, this is a bit discouraging; but I sort of knew it.
    The push to publish and sell it, and its success, is indeed inspiring. Thanks.

    There are the ideas, the message. And the medium (not always the message). And the sales of the ideas, the presentation. Perhaps I’m too comfy as I am to become a better salesman. (see comments on Weird).
    But I’d rather be writing comments than watching a video; and don’t have time for both.

    (Friday at 5pm in Kigali, Rwanda, during the week of genocide memorial, yesterday a national holiday here.)
    Now, back to work — Michael, your many responses to a huge number of comments is a great thing about your blog (… but not enough time to read it all). Thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    A story of truth, devastation (maybe too strong a word), and hope! I have heard similar stories time and time again. These shared experiences really help to spur us on. One thing is for sure, we can’t go on unless we LOVE writing, are PASSIONATE about our message…and have FAITH that someone, somewhere, in some way needs our book. And so, we press on! Thanks for the encouragement…

  • TNeal

    Another excellent example of persistence. That seems to be a potent ingredient to success in any arena in life but especially in the publishing world. Thanks, Michael, for waking the dreamy-eyed romanticist and reminding him once again of the hard work involved in writing a book.

  • http://twitter.com/DanNSurrealLife Daniel Sparks

    That is SO encouraging! Stories akin to these really help solidify my resolve. Thank you!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great recap of your Re:create presentation, Michael. I really enjoyed the cruise and the chance to present a book proposal to you. After our half hour together, I came away with three things that really opened my eyes.

    1. I need to put more of myself into my proposal. A prospective publisher needs to know who I am and what my background is. I don’t need to be a PhD to be recognized, just true to myself.

    2. I need to laser focus my content. If the content is too vague, it will seem like any other book on the market. The content needs to be well organized and make clear sense to the person who will be reading it.

    3. My proposal must be unique. Why would someone want to publish my book if it is like everything else on the market? My unique selling proposition should be clear and detailed. My intended audience should be large enough to warrant publication.

    When I heard your presentation on the ship, I was a little dismayed at the process and especially the rejection involved. Your story of Andy Andrews being rejected 56 times with his book, The Travelers Gift, really hit home. My first book is in the same genre as his work, so it initially seemed like it would be impossible to have someone consider it. As you finished your presentation, one word came across loud and clear… persistence.

    I put up a post on my blog today, how the publishing journey is like climbing a waterfall. They both require a guide, mentors, and total immersion. Neither are impossible, it just takes one step at a time and a LOT of persistence to get to the top!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I enjoyed my time with you as well, John. I am so glad that you blogged about the waterfall. (Like I told you, if you didn’t, I was going to steal your idea!)

      You definitely have what it takes. Your persistence will pay off!

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      John, these are good points. I think that coming up with a good idea and proposal is the first big hump in getting published.

  • http://twitter.com/AmandaSims Amanda Sims

    First, let me say that I remember reading that book by the pool the summer it came out. :)

    Also, last November I signed up for NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is 50K words in 30 days. I went into it with no firm ideas for plot or characters. I just dove in. I did it – just barely – but I haven’t even looked at the manuscript since. But what I learned from that experience is that writing is work, just like anything else. I had to keep going, keep hitting my word quota. I knew some of it was worthless, but the effort alone taught me so much!

    And I already have an idea for the next one, and my plan is to have a plot, characters and an outline ready for November 1.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That sounds like an awesome experience!

  • http://twitter.com/davebaldwin Dave Baldwin

    Can’t wait to work through today’s post. It has been crazy around here. However, enough to say that through your e-book on life-planning, the ideal week and a book I’m reading by Brian Tracy (Eat That Frog), God is getting my attention about how to better manage my personal life and thus make a larger impact for Him in the Kingdom.
    Thank you Michael.

  • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

    On a smaller scale, this really relates to blogging for me.

    When I started, I had a basic idea of what I was called to do; but, I had NO IDEA what it would take to REALLY DO THINGS WELL. After getting started, I began to learn the difference between high-quality and low-quality blogs – ones that will sustain and make a difference versus ones that will quickly fade into the bleak realities of life.

    Knowing up front what was involved in the process, I might have procastinated longer or even given up before starting. I still have a long ways to go; but, I will take one step at a time and keep climbing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This definitely applies to blogging—or, really, any creative endeavor.

  • Lynette Sowell

    I have not had overnight success, but any progress has been through more work than I imagined at the very beginning of my freelance writing career. I think some writers believe it’ll get “easier” once publication comes, but that’s not necessarily true. For example, I am currently in the final round of content and copy edits on my eleventh title releasing in December, which through circumstances beyond my control is releasing several years after the book was first contracted and completed. These are the most difficult edits I’ve worked through, but thanks to the help of my gem of a content editor (who at one time worked for TN), I feel more confident now than I did when the edits began.

    I’ve also learned that a great idea will require lots of GREAT follow-up…

  • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylereed

    Wow, love that story.

    I think in some ways this story reflects a part of mine when I was ambushed by 2 guys who basically tore me apart for 2 hours and told me I had no business working with bloggers or designing blogs.
    I say ambush, because I thought I was there some future job stuff and conversation.

    Instead they told me that I did not have the experience or skill and that what I was doing now was not going to work. It would fail and no one would even notice.

    Now that I am a free lance designer and consultant I have realized that sometimes believing that God is leading you in a direction is the most important thing, not what others are thinking.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com AbbessBrown

    After my Dad retired from teaching at our local Christian university at 74 (he had already retired from the preaching ministry after 55 years), he spent his days writing down his memories. He “finished” about 6 months before his 80th birthday … and when I was in town for my Mom’s 80 birthday, I saw it for the first time. My brother and one of my sisters had read through it and told Dad was a great thing it was to have these memories written down … and was he going to make copies (like spiral-bound down at Kinkos) for all six of us kids.

    Being the desktop publishing/word processing guru of the family, I told Dad that I would be happy to work with the document a bit so that it had consistent formatting, etc. So he sent me the file attached to an email … and 18 months of my life just kind of disappeared!

    First, after reading through it once, I realized that he told pieces of the same stories in many different places … and suggested that perhaps I might try to move things around some so that the story was told in its entirety in a place where it made the most sense to tell it.

    Then I began to ask him to fill in spots here and there to make things flow a little better.

    Then I organized things chronologically, and then topically within each time frame.

    Then we started talking about including pictures … oy vey! Scanning, sorting, labeling….

    When I had a document that was looking really pretty cool, he ran into a writer friend who had self-published … and Dad decided that he was going to get this printed (ended up with 70 hard cover editions (with jacket) and 300 soft cover).

    Formatting went to an entirely new level — with all the specifications and requirements from the publishing company.

    Then there was cover art … which ended up being beautifully done by two nephews in graphic arts, because the cover Dad and I worked with the publisher just wasn’t “cool” enough. And the end product was, really, very cool.

    Then there was proofing the final copies … oh, my aching eyes!

    During this process, my folks made the trip from LA to Vancouver three or four times to work face to face — especially for the final review. That was precious time for my sons (ages 6, 8 and 11) to spend with my parents … and was the last time my parents were able to travel here. (Dad was already slipping mentally and was unexpectedly diagnosed with Parkinson’s the following year. At least he had been able to share his book with his family and friends during that year and see what a wonderful gift it was for us all.)

    We were able to get them all printed and delivered to his home in time for him to personalize copies for his six children and 17 grandchildren … and give them to us at our family reunion celebrating my parent’s 60th Anniversary.


    The amazing thing was that I would not have even considered (or been able to accomplish) this project if I hadn’t done a whirlwind writing and self-publishing project of my own four years earlier, while I was an associate pastor in charge of Community Life/Small Groups at a large church, during the 40 Days of Purpose craze!

    Having some significant theological differences with Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven Life book, our pastoral staff still wanted to participate in the 40 day event … so I undertook to write our own version of the book and small group curriculum, using their themes but with our distinctives, while still using the rest of the structure and look of the Saddleback event.

    Turns out that I ended up writing, editing, formatting, and publishing (at Kinkos!) this entire project in about 40 days — started over the 4th of July holiday and finished Labor Day weekend for our October 1 launch. How did I manage this over the summer with three boys, ages 2, 4 and 7? Only God knows, truly!

    We had over 1,000 persons participate with us (in over 100 small groups!) in one of the most successful coordinated discipleship activities in the history of this congregation. There were even a number of other congregations in our fellowship who were able to use these materials for their own 40 Days experience.

    God, in his love and grace and mercy, provided me with a two-fer for my church family and my birth family — one building on the other to produce products that far exceeded anything any of had ever hoped or even imagined.

    …and, boy did I learn lots of lessons in the process … and, no, I would totally not have been willing to do either if I had known what I (and my family!) was signing up for.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      That’s a great story.

  • http://www.momentsofgracelotr.com Anne Marie

    Thank you especially for the parts about sticking with your book, even when no one, including the publisher, wanted to. That is heartening to know how well it turned out and something that I must keep in mind if it happens to me and I’m tempted to give in. I am in the final draft (I hope!) of my book and it’s taking a lot longer than I was expecting. I do indeed feel like Erica that I have two full time jobs – my ‘real’ one and the book. But working on it gives me a sense of contentment and purpose nothing else can. Thank you for your encouraging testimony!

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    I was once asked to write a book by the editor in chief of a gossip magazine I briefly worked for. I refused. Then someone else hired me to edit and ghostwrite their book. I quit. Are you saying in your post that one should take on and then, God forbid, stick with projects even though they may seem difficult, if not impossible, to pull off?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      No, I think you sometimes need to abandon projects. Seth Godin talks about this in his wonderful little book, The Dip. It’s all about discerning when you need to press on and when you need to give up.

  • http://twitter.com/hdnspringscoach Kenneth Gonyer

    Something that struck me: although you worked the hardest, you were one of many people in a publishing partnership. You may not have been able to succeed in selling the proposal or publicizing the book on your own. We really need the support of others in any great task!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So true. It doesn’t just take a team; it takes a village!

  • http://terripatrick.wordpress.com/ Terri Patrick

    Thanks for sharing. In hindsight, do you think if you had the options today of self publishing this book, would you have done so?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think so. I still value the role of traditional publishers in not only “curating the content” and making it better, but giving me wider distribution than I could have gotten on my own.

  • http://www.idelette.com Idelette

    Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story. It meant a lot to hear it from you.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for coming with us on this adventure, Idelette. I loved your post summarizing your experience!

      • http://www.idelette.com idelette

        Thank you so much! I really appreciated your feedback.

  • Tracey

    This is EXACTLY what I needed today … Thank you!

  • http://www.donbrobst.com Donald Brobst

    Michael, in your response to Terri Patrick you indicated that you would not have self published. Do you not recommend self publishing?

  • http://www.brianjones.ca joshaidan

    The Millennium Bug

    Man this is gold!!! You have to give away a few autograph copies of this book on your blog as a contest. I love this quote on Amazon:

    “move to a small town with a volunteer fire department, stockpile food, secure access to a reliable source of fresh water, and buy a gun and ammunition for fending off looters. The winter of 1999-2000 will be a hard one, Hyatt predicts, and the crisis may last a long time indeed–have reading material on hand.”

    hehe… I think you’ll have to add a new chapter to your series on creativity, when what you wrote in the past comes back to haunt you. :)


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yea, well at least I admitted it! (I did all those things, too.)

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Pro

    Wow! What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing this chapter from your life.

  • Heather

    I found this extremely encouraging–thank you. When I first wanted to write a novel a few years back, it was just that, a want. But now I believe deep inside it’s a call. When God started dealing with the nitty gritty in me I began approaching it more like a job than a hobby. I believe He told me to just ‘show up’ at a certain time each day, and led me to set goals, as well. Now, I’m finding myself three quarters of the way done in just a couple of months. And it’s the most exciting thing ever! In fact, I don’t even really care what happens next–being able to do this most every day is just about the best thing God has ever given me. Not only do I know it’s imperative I see this all the way through–whether no one ever sees it but me, I just know it’s going to be good. :)

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  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed hearing you tell this on the cruise. Thanks for sharing. I hope to have a similar story (soon).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I hope you do, Laurinda. I enjoyed meeting you as well.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Your post reminds me of the saying “Rome is not built in a day”. I understand that ‘things take time’.

    Currently, I am in the process of writing articles and research reports for technical journals. Your advice kindles and ingnites my interest to write books.

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  • Dave Fessenden

    Great post, Michael. I learned all over again that my experience on my first book was a fluke. I sent a proposal and the first chapter or so to only one publisher (a contact at a writers conference), and got a fairly quick response that they wanted to see the full manuscript. I finished the book, showed it to a few people to make sure it was clean, sent it off with my proposal. Didn’t hear anything for at least a couple of months. The editor finally called and was talking about the process of typesetting the book, and I asked, “Uh, aren’t you going to send me a contract?” The contract arrived in the mail only days later. I got the galleys and reviewed them; they seemed fine, and the book was published — I think it was within six months of submitting the proposal. When I saw the editor at a writers’ conference the next summer, I asked if he had any trouble editing the book. He laughed, shook his head and said, “Changed about three words.”

    I sent out my next proposal with an overabundance of confidence — OK, we’ll call it what it was: pride. After a couple of years of peddling it around at conferences, I was sick of getting told that it was “just not what we’re looking for.” A friend said he knew a VP at David C. Cook, and could he have my proposal to show to him. By that time, I had been an editor myself for a few years, and knew that this was a bad idea (or so I thought). But I gave the proposal to my friend anyway, and forgot all about it. Several weeks later, I got a phone call asking if I had time for a conference call with three editors from Cook — they loved the book, and wanted to publish it right away!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This proves that every creative’s path is different. However, your first experience was definitely an exception to the usual process. Thanks for sharing it.

    • TNeal

      I had a similar path with an entirely different ending. I pitched at a writer’s conference and had an editor ask for my first few chapters (a fiction piece). Then she asked for the entire manuscript. The manuscript went as far as committee but got turned down there. That was my first dip into the publishing world’s pool. As I spoke to more seasoned authors, I felt charmed (like you, let’s call it what it was: pride).

      Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, the road has been tougher and failure has sharpened me and my focus as a writer. I’ve had to choose between getting better or quitting. I choose to get better.

      I again appreciate Michael’s sharing his story because it reminds us all that the journey toward published author can be tough.

      Thanks as well for sharing your story because it shows the tunnel doesn’t always have to be long before we see the light.

  • Dean Deguara

    Longing to write my first book…good to know it can be a painful process like anything that is successful!

  • http://frankjkenny.com Frank J. Kenny

    Thanks for writing this Michael.

    I have a self-published ebook coming out in a few weeks and have no idea if all the work could possibly be worth it. Just like anything else, we just have to give it our best shot and let the chips fall where they may.

  • http://twitter.com/samdavidson samdavidson

    Thanks for sharing this story. This is further proof that hard work – in any industry – and quality craftsmanship are what produce real success.

  • http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    As usual, Michael, another great post. It works for any ideation effort- from publishing, to product design, to process development.
    I have passed it along to my colleagues and friends- for learning and re-learning!

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  • shona cole

    You are so right about the work it takes. I wrote an art ‘how-to’ book, which was published by North Light in 2010. During the writing the worst part for me was realizing that I had repeated some ideas in different parts of the book. I had had a plan, but somehow in the writing I lost track of the wood for the trees. I was shocked at how much editing it required! Fortunately my editor could ‘see’ it and while I handed her a repetitive tome she helped me reduce it down about 50% and straighten it out. Looking back I actually preferred the editing to the initial writing process! I enjoyed reading your first time author story, makes me not feel so silly admitting mine!

  • http://lovedoesntletgo.blogspot.com Israel Sanchez

    This is really encouraging. My dream, as I’m sure like many who have commented, is to be an author. I learned so much from your insights, tips and even mistakes. Thanks again.

  • Danpind35

    I understand the trials that you spoke of while writing your first book. I just completed my first book and have began a second. I was wondering why you sought out a publisher. I found that it is quicker and much easier to self publish your work than from what I have read about going through a publisher. I had my book online after only a month after completing it and on the kindel after five weeks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      For starters, it was 1997 when my story took place. Self-publishing wasn’t really an option then. Also, I doubt the book would have done as well as it did without a publisher to get it on the shelves. Amazon was just beginning; the industry was much less consolidated.

    • TNeal

      I’ve spent at least four years in the process of getting published and haven’t arrived yet. I recognize self-publishing is an option but, for me, having to go through the submission process has been like a sander on a piece of rough-hewn wood. I’ve needed the polishing to better tell a story. That, of course, has been my experience. It’s not necessary for everyone. Congrats for traveling a different path and getting your work out there.

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  • Niah Harding

    Would you help us pick one of our Plays we should submit first ?
    Using the best commercial log-line….
    MARRIAGE & BEER:   (Romantic Comedy)A frustrated Wife; a prescription Drug-addict; a Courtesan; and  a religious Zealot all set-out to seek the perfect husband.  But there’s one thing these Four women over-look.  Just when JFK was elected President,  abortions were illegal and divorce was a…  sin.  NEGRO THE LIE:     (Social Drama)African American man accused of killing a White-woman when driving drunk. The prosecution is a secret KKK member, and the accused is a confessed alcoholic. But watch what changes the heart of this racist Klan member, during a time when drunk-driving in Maryland is a misdemeanor-crime. THE SIX OF US:  (Family Drama)Teenage male facing a racial identity crisis during the JFK era. A time when Mom prefers to be called Colored; Dad preferred to be called Negro; Auntie preferred to be called African; Big-sister preferred to be called Afro; Cousin preferred to be called Moorish, and you better-better not call any of them Black. ALL to glorify Christ;
    Niah Harding

  • E T

    Thanks for spelling out your experience, which I relate to in so many ways.  I found the goalposts moving during my prolonged efforts to attract a publisher and the demands differed considerably.  But I persevered with my lyrical voice for children, in spite of being turned away because of ‘co-editing issues’.  On the plus side, I wrote a series during the difficult times (also the frowned upon at the time) and utilized the material, in collaboration with an illustrator/animator (tut-tutted, to create a literacy project for elementary schools.  I will soon be published by an educational publisher and the material is attracting multi-national interest.  So, therein lies my story.

    Merry Christmas and good luck to everyone with their endeavours in 2012

  • Precious Miriam

    I didn’t realize how much work went into publishing book either. My book is still in the revision phase. That alone was hard for me especially with three small children and a husband. I haven’t begun the marketing stage. I thought doing what I loved would be easy, but I’ve noticed that everything that you do in life requires hard work.