3 Essential Lessons for First-Time Authors

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Add More ~ing to Your Life: A Hip Guide to Happiness, by Gabby BernsteinI almost gave back the advance for my first book.

I wrote a book proposal, sold the book, and then freaked out. I freaked because I had NO CLUE how to write or market a book.

But I knew I had an empowering message to share — so I turned inward for guidance. As I sat in meditation, I heard a clear voice say, “Call Kris Carr.”

I don’t ignore intuitive guidance, so after my meditation I called my friend Kris and confessed what was up.

Kris immediately put me in touch with a writing coach named Bonnie, and from there everything took off. Bonnie encouraged me to write the way I spoke onstage. The moment I started writing the same way I was speaking was the moment I got in my groove. I had to find my voice as a first-time author.

That day my inspiration was stronger than my fear. Inspiration led me to create a blueprint for getting my book into the world, starting with writing the way I spoke.

Today, more than a decade after I almost gave back my advance, I’m in the midst of writing my ninth book in ten years.

Once you recognize your voice matters, the words can flow. This is the biggest lesson I learned as a first-time author and it’s served me ever since!

I recently saw the same magic unfold for one of my best friends, Jenny Sansouci, who is a first-time author!

Jenny Sansouci’s road to becoming a successful first-time author

The Rebel's Apothecary by Jenny Sansouci | first-time authorSeveral years ago, one afternoon in the fall, I got a phone call from my friend John. He said a friend of his was having a hard time and he thought I could help her. I said, “Sure, have her call me.”

Within a few hours, I was having tea at a Moroccan restaurant in the East Village with Jenny Sansouci. That was the day Jenny made a commitment to her personal and spiritual growth without even realizing it.

We stayed in touch and Jenny became one of my best friends as well as one of my biggest supporters. Every time I’d give a talk, I’d first take a walk in the city with Jenny and tell her my talk out loud. More than once we packed up her car with my books and drove from New York to Philadelphia or New Jersey or Connecticut together so I could give a talk. She’s been my dear friend and my trusted companion.

It’s been such an honor to watch Jenny grow as a leader in the health and wellness space. She grew her blog, Healthy Crush, into a popular and reliable resource. And when her father was diagnosed with cancer, Jenny found her true calling: to support him on his healing journey and in turn support the world.

Jenny is the Inspector Gadget for wellness! She dives deep and loves to do the nerdy research, like visiting farms to learn about adaptogenic mushrooms.

I’ve always known Jenny had a book in her. It was just a matter of which topic landed most. Last month, she published The Rebel’s Apothecary: A Practical Guide to the Healing Magic of Cannabis, CBD, and Mushrooms.

Jenny has been coming to my lectures for 14 years and now she’s on my stage! In my Bestseller Masterclass digital course, she teaches how to create a book proposal that stands out to agents and publishers. (You can join the waitlist here.)

For this post, I asked Jenny to share her experience as a first-time author! So below are 3 big lessons she learned about writing, publishing and marketing her book.

3 Lessons I Learned As a First-Time Author, by Jenny Sansouci

1: Eliminate distractions when writing

Early on in my book-writing process, I met the author and writing teacher Dani Shapiro, and I asked her if she had any advice for a first-time author as I embarked on my writing journey.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said one sentence: “Be uninterruptible.” That advice stuck with me, and I’d bring it to mind anytime I was having a hard time getting into the writing groove.

Writing a book takes a huge amount of dedicated focus and attention — a kind of attention I’d never had to cultivate before in my work. To meet my book deadlines, I had to learn to create boundaries in a whole new way.

One of the biggest distractions was my phone, so I created strict boundaries around it during my dedicated writing times. Social media, phone calls and texts could so easily distract me from my writing and knock me out of the focus zone for hours.

For me, this meant putting my phone in airplane mode while I was writing and turning off the Wi-Fi on my laptop so I wouldn’t be tempted to do anything online. I even had a wooden box with a lock on it that I’d put my phone into while I was writing, so I wouldn’t even be tempted to pick it up!

Don’t underestimate the power of your focused attention. Identify the biggest distractions in your life and learn to create boundaries around them, as a gift to your writing process.

Even just one hour per day of complete focus on your book can really help to move you forward. If you steadily add more focused, completely distraction-free writing hours into your life, you’ll see your book start to come together!

2. The power of the book proposal

Jenny Sansouci | first-time author
Photo courtesy Jenny Sansouci

Writing my book proposal was one of the most impactful parts of the book-writing process, and it continued to serve me for the entire duration of writing my book.

If you choose to publish with a traditional publisher, you’ll need to put together a book proposal, but I highly recommend writing one even if you’re self-publishing. The reason a proposal is so powerful is that it helps you to get crystal clear on your book concept, ideal reader, outline and chapters. When you start writing your book, you already have the structure there, just waiting to be filled in!

Of course, your book’s structure may change a bit as you write it, but your proposal will keep you grounded and connected to the reason you’re writing it, who you’re writing it for, and the stories and lessons you want to include in your chapters.

When you sit down to write, rather than staring at a blank page (which can feel intimidating), you will have your proposal to guide your process, point by point. I had a printed-out version of my proposal as well as a digital version that I referred to during every single writing session, to keep me on track if I felt lost.

Take the time to get clear on your outline before you sit down to write — it will be the gift that keeps on giving!

3. Marketing: Action and surrender

Jenny Sansouci and Gabby Bernstein | first-time authorWhen it comes to marketing and your book launch, it’s important to make a clear action plan — but it’s equally important to surrender and be willing to pivot.

I launched my book during a global pandemic, which, of course, I didn’t plan for and couldn’t do anything to control. The in-person launch events I had planned were canceled, and bookstores were all closed. I had no choice but to surrender to the state of the world and the new circumstances surrounding my book launch.

Instead of panicking, I chose to see the opportunities in the situation and embrace the change. I adjusted my strategy and messaging to be more mindful of the circumstances in the world, and instead of doing in-person events, I filled my schedule with podcast interviews and created virtual events around the launch.

Because of the slowdown, I could take more time to get quiet each day and connect with what actions felt aligned for me to support my book’s entry into the world. I let go of the idea that my book launch had to look a certain way, and I began to think of my book as part of a bigger ecosystem of my work that I would be nurturing over the long term.

The serenity prayer is the perfect prayer to repeat during the marketing process: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

There are many powerful actions we can take when it comes to book marketing, but the willingness to surrender and adjust as needed is essential.

Trust that if you take actions that feel aligned to you, your book will land in the hands of the people who need it at the perfect time. Once your book is out in the world, it will take a journey of its own. That journey may look different than you expected — and that could be a good thing!

The Bestseller Masterclass Digital Course

You don’t need to have a big following, an established business or a writing degree to share your story through books. People in every stage of life, from every background, and in every profession hear this call.

I created the Bestseller Masterclass to help you share your message with the world.  In it I share my formula for writing, publishing and marketing a bestselling book

If you hear the call, learn more here.

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