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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  1. I am so excited for this. I just quit my corporate job that was literally killing me. It was so out of alignment with who I am that it literally manifested in physical sickness. I have been writing my book for 6 years! Always putting it down for some reason or another. I have survived addiction (my own and my parents) all kinds of abuse and trauma, a child who suffered a massive brain injury at 5 weeks of age and his subsequent death 12 years later and so much more. I heard you when you said the “Universe has your back” and I decided to believe it. Quit my job, then saw this…Thank you! I have been helping people with my story in my recovery community for years, and I know it is now to time to take the next step. You are amazing and thank you for sharing your gifts with the world.

    1. Sounds like divine timing, Donna. So glad that you’ll be joining us. We know that your story will serve the world and we cannot wait to hear it. xoxo

  2. And I put it out there, in no time at all you delivered…as expected. This Masterclass is just what I need now, as I’ve been more motivated than ever to complete what I began quite some time ago. The timeliness of my book has never been better, I just need some added expertise and guidance and cannot wait to share the finished product. Thank you, Gabby, for delivering such a gift! So excited I just can’t stand the wait! 🙂

    1. Love it, Janice. The universe always delivers. So glad you’ll be joining us on this awesome book journey! Can’t wait to hear your story. xoxo

  3. I put down my name and I am going to do this!
    I work in the entertainment business so of course my work schedule has stopped and I have so much free time. I have so many stories to tell, from my beautiful Caribbean island, Trinidad & Tobago. One being my great grandfather’s journey from Corsica to dining with French presidents. This is a big commitment to take on telling this story and I have been trying to write it since my grandfather’s passing in 1997. This is the time! Give thanks for making this digital, of course I am apprehensive about the cost but I trust the Universe has My Back and I am a Super Attractor! So bring it on, I can do this.

  4. Hi Gabby,
    I was glad to see this in my inbox while checking emails this morning.
    I am wondering your opinion and do not want to waste time writing a book even though I want to share my story that would I feel tremendously help women, single mothers especially.
    I’ll get to the point….obviously there are things in life that you want to do but Spirit has another plan….I have to be careful about what I share due working as a healthcare provider and what has occurred in my life, all the shit I went through could have legal consequences for those who are less compassionate to my story and the best lawyers cannot predict people reactions.
    So my concern is I have a healing journey that I wished was like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat pray love’s
    story…only mine was much much harder.
    I wanted to write a book years ago and talked with a reputable psychic who was very good. But she said yes write, more like in journal but not that I would accomplish anything as an author.
    I still feel very drawn to write about this or another idea of mine with empowering women, really pointing out some stuff and getting real.
    Here is where I am stuck, Maybe I am not supposed because of all the legal stuff, but if I hold back on my life it wouldn’t be the same book and little helpful. Maybe this is why the psychic said no?
    I have been quite wrong at times when I felt a yes with my intuition and in a quite state but was still wrong.
    What would be your advice?
    FYI. This does not include sharing patients stories, just mine.

    1. These are great questions, Lily. Sometimes you get permission to share stories that include other people, sometimes you make people anonymous and change identifying details, sometimes you need to consult a lawyer– and sometimes you make it into a fiction book! This might be the best option for you — to completely fictionalize the story and write it as a novel. As for knowing you’re ready to share your story, this is something we cover in the Masterclass as well. I hope this helps! xoxo

  5. I’m on the wait list and cannot wait for the course to start!
    Thanks so much for making this all digital Gabby – now it’s completely accessible for me!
    I self published my life story – how I manage to stay as positive as I do- just as we went into lockdown. My guides had me rewrite it all last Summer , being completely vulnerable – more than I had been in the first draft. I had no idea why that book had to come out first and then the global pandemic hit and everyone was forced to enter my world. ‘Happiness- How to be happier, no matter what’ took on a whole new meaning and I finally understood why my guides had been so insistent last Summer.
    Now I’m back to working on a series of books that I’ve been working on since 2013. But I keep hitting blocks of all kinds – I get 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. The timing of your course could not be more perfect and I’m eager to learn from you Gabby.
    I’m so grateful for all you do. I am not kidding when I say that your books and Miracle Membership have changed my life completely, they really have!
    I truly appreciate you and I’m so thankful this course is just around the corner. Thank You!

    1. Since I first saw you talk about putting your phone on airplane mode when you write, I started doing the same and it really makes a difference. I haven’t locked it in a box but that’s a great idea!

    2. Amazing, Victoria! It sounds like divine timing for sure. So glad that these lessons resonate with you as well as Gabby’s books and the Miracle Membership! Can’t wait for you to join us for Bestseller Masterclass– we look forward to hearing more of your story! Keep writing! xoxo

  6. I am so excited for this course and joined the waitlist immediately. I have been writing my memoir, a black feminist spiritual journal and love story, for the past five years. I’ve learned so much through the writing process but I know nothing about the next step and have been stuck. So much fear around life changes! I believe in the power of voice and publishing this book is part of my calling, just as mothering and teaching has been. I’m ready for the next phase! Thank you Gabby! Your books have helped me work through so many fears. I know this class will too!!

  7. This was all so great. Thank you so much for sharing. I think the funniest and most beautiful thing of all was I’ve been thinking of writing a book for so long, but stopped because I felt my voice didn’t matter. I then reached out to a person in my home town who wrote her own book and did a self publish. She told me that if I felt like what I had to say was important and it would help people, I should do it. Then I thought, “Well okay.. But where do I even begin?” I checked my email the next day, and I got a link to this blog!! I felt like it was synchronicity at it’s finest. Thank you so so so much, Gabby!!!

  8. Well I have been thinking about writing a book and today I had your email come over and another one about this subject. So I know these are signs that the Universal is telling me I am on the right path and to follow it! Your messages are always so timely. I can’t wait to share my story!

    1. Love it, Karen. We can’t wait for you to share your story! Wonderful that this email was delivered to your inbox at the right and perfect time– the universe always delivers. See you at Bestseller Masterclass! xoxo

    2. The power of synchronicity! I’ve had my book in me for years, I get motivated to write and then fears and resistance take over. I keep getting the pull to write it but my fears and resistance and limiting beliefs, judgement and who am I do write a book and no one will read it! take over! Last week in meditation I asked for a sign from the universe about my book and the same afternoon Gabby’s email about the masterclass popped into my inbox and instantly I knew that was my sign from the universe. Perfect Divine timing thank you Gabby for everything you do, your books have been life changing for me! and I always recommend them and you are the first author I choose when giving books as gifts! You truly are an Earth Angel!

      1. Yes, Sukie! This sounds like divine timing for sure! Looking forward to hearing your story– so glad you’ll be on this journey with us! xoxo

  9. I asked my guides to assist me with publishing my first book. It can feel incredibly scary, clueless, and “in the dark” while publishing your first book, that’s for sure! Thank you so much Gabby for hosting this Bestseller’s Masterclass – you are the resource my guides led me to to become the Bestselling Author I just feel I was meant to be. My deepest love to you, and I have so much gratitude for your work! xx Eden

  10. Hi Gabby, a good friend forwarded this information to me. It came at the perfect time, as I have begun, at long last, writing my book.

    Your 3 lessons for a first-time author most helpful and inspiring. Where to begin seems to be the first barrier. Thank you for eliminating that for me.
    I congratulate you on following your heart.
    I know it is time that I follow my Heart ❤️ and let My Voice be heard.
    I finally value this, although many people have told me for years I have talent and ability and a powerful message
    Thank you, thank you, thank you

    1. Fantastic, Maria! So glad these lessons resonate with you and that you’re excited for Bestseller Masterclass! We look forward to seeing you there and hearing your story! xoxo

  11. These tips are great Gabbie. I don’t think I’m ready to write a book but this will help on the path of writing just my blogs which are inconsistent and lack a focus

  12. Hi Gabby! I’m happy the course will be digital this summer. I’m on the waitlist! Do you have plans to ever host it in-person again after the pandemic? Or will it be only a digital offering now? Thank you – and so looking forward!

    1. Great question, Amanda. For the time being, Best Seller Masterclass is a digital offering. xoxo.

  13. My book/books have been waiting and waiting and waiting on ME to take action. I am looking very forward to this class and learning. Thank you!! The tips already shared are golden!

  14. This is so exciting Gabby! I’ve been building a successful corporate wellness company and have found myself giving SO many talks lately, guiding people through this crisis and beyond. I know that there’s a book inside of me waiting to come out! It’s amazing how the Universe shows up at just the exact moment you need it to. Thank you dear! xo

  15. I LOVE the idea of locking my phone in a box! Perhaps I will simply put it in another room until I find one. 🙂 I get distracted every single time I try to sit down and write, so I’m going to commit to removing these distractions! Thanks Jenny & Gabby. Loved seeing you both at Bestseller Day this year! xo Asia

  16. I know I have a book in me and I want to get it out into the world. More of a memoir. Thank you for sharing this and I am excited about the Masterclass.

      1. I feel I want to write a children’s Book… About an indigo child … This has been so insightful thank you … popped on the waiting list

        1. Right on, Louise! Love that you feel called to write a children’s book and that you’ve found these lessons insightful! See you at Bestseller Masterclass! We can’t wait to hear your story! xoxo

  17. Hey there gabby great to read this it really has came at the right time for me could I ask your advice I am working with a book coach , i started my book 3 years ago , the with the pandemic I have found the drive and now have it completed , it’s my life story with lots of my Traumas addictions and how I recovered and turn my life around , my book is to empower woman to love themselves first and to take the action they deserve in there life. I’m just starting out as a recovery coach and was publishing my book to help with my coaching business to serve people so they can have a read and then they know basically how I did it and can believe that they can , but I’ve been told not to as people need to see me more online first and I need a mailing list of 5000 people what would be your advice ?

    Love always. Lyndsey xx

    1. Lyndsey, your book is needed now more than ever. Don’t let anything stop you. There are many ways to write and publish a book even without a built-in audience.

  18. Hi Gabby! I have been working with your programs and the Miracle Membership and every time it has been life changing! Thank you so much for your messages and all that you do. I am a naturopathic physician x 13 years and my next step is writing the book as I definitely have a message to give the world! I eventually hope to create an online presence to my practice similar to your membership format but anything you have in this program to help with the publishing journey will be greatly appreciated! Will begin with God as my Publicist while waiting!!! For whatever reason, my 4 year old son is telling me to include Ho’oponoponono in my message right now… He’s the best! Thanks Gabby! Looking forward to the Masterclass…

    1. Hi to your son! The answer is YES. The course covers publishing, self-publishing, and offers a 6-month marketing plan. There is so much more in there too!

  19. Hi Gabby, I’m french and would like to write in french. Can your digital masterclass fit with jetlag ? Are they videos available at any time or is it at specific moments ? Please excuse my english I have not practised for ages…(but think I’m able to follow your classes and catch thé message). Thanks for your answer

  20. Thanks so much for sharing this! I want to self-publish, but love the idea about creating a book proposal to be as clear as possible on what you want your book to look like. That’ll be super helpful to stop me from getting lost in my message.

    Props to Jenny for the way she was able to pivot her book launch during a public health epidemic and dig deep into her beliefs. She’s an inspiration for me!

  21. Hi Gabby! I love your work and enjoy reading your books! I have learned a lot from you and absolutely love you and your work!!! My husband wrote a book that is awesome about boys and men an women who loved them “tears of the Phoenix”. The challenge is finding a good agent. Can your course help with that? We have self published and used all of our savings and resources. It’s not self help but a great story that resonates with every reader. Any guidance is appreciated! Much love and blessings to you!


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