Today I spoke with best-selling author D.R. Silva who has generated over $10,000 in sales of his self-published books.
We talked about the creative process, the struggles that we face as artists, authors, and business owners, and some things that we would do differently if we were starting over.
When it comes to marketing and selling your book (or any art form, for that matter), there are a few things we recommend keeping in mind after years of creating and selling content online.
You can read the interview in its entirety and get some great recommendations for your own creative projects below.
If you have ever considered publishing your own book, creating and sharing your own art or music, or any thing of that sort, this will help you.
Remember: The hardest part is often just getting started.
Aloha, abundance & peace to you and yours this year and beyond!
Question #1: Can you share about a time that you really struggled to get started and how you overcame that?
The creative process is something I’ve always been fascinated by - and more specifically the fact that of every high-performing “creative” person I know, they all wrestle with similar things when it comes to putting out new types of work. For me - and I think for a lot of people - the hardest part is usually just getting started. Turning off the phones, email and app notifications, and sitting and staring at that blinking cursor on a blank page.
I also know that if I’m not careful, I can have a tendency to overcomplicate things that really are quite simple when you get down to it. It always starts the same. I stare at the screen or the canvas and just start throwing something on it. It usually doesn’t take long form that point to at least get some kind of starting point, even if you don’t end up using what you originally started with.
However, when the ‘creative block’ hits it can often feel like a freight train.
So for you, when it comes to publishing your own books, can you tell me about a time that you really struggled to get started but then overcame it - and a little bit about how you did that?
That’s a really good question and one that isn’t quite so easy to answer, but let me give it a shot and I’ll at least tell you what I did.
The biggest hurdle for me to get over was the constant urge to be on social media, whether checking to see who “liked” my previous posts, or the need to make a new post out of whatever new thought or cool-sounding one-liner that popped into my head. Facebook is an easy place to dump ideas quickly, and then feel like you’ve “done your job” because they’re out of your head, so you feel okay with moving on and leaving all of that insight there.
The issue, of course, is that Facebook and other social media sites are a constantly moving stream. So I might spend 3 hours writing a 3,000 words post on Facebook, and it might get a bunch of “likes” and shares in the next couple of days, but in a day or two it’s washed down the “stream” by everyone else’s posts and forgotten about.
That was probably the most important thing for me to realize before I decided to put my content in books, a place where my words are more set in stone instead of sand.
My books, although they are only 3 in a crowd of over a million on Amazon, are there, always in the same place, always easy to find. The same cannot be said about the thousands of long posts I’ve invested hours to write on Facebook.
They’re still there, but you can’t get to them without digging, and there’s no way to know what you’re digging for or how close you are to finding it. It’s not worth the effort.
That was probably the most important thing for me to realize before I decided to put my content in books, a place where my words are more set in stone instead of sand.”
Question #2: How do you go about dealing with the hard part of promoting your work in a way that feels genuine and resonates with your audience?
I know for me one of the things that is probably one of my biggest struggles is the fact that if I wanted to, I could just sit around all day and make new things and come up with new ideas. It’s the follow through and wrapping up something to the point that I’m ready to share it with the world that I often get tripped up.
One of the phrases that I heard a lot from working with other authors and speakers throughout the years is that the initial creation is the EASY part. The hard part is often figuring out the best way to stay connected with the audience you want to reach in a way that is meaningful, tangible, and consistent.
For me, if I could go back and start over, I would spend a lot more time and energy building my own platform, my own website, and utilizing my own mailing list rather than spending so much time on social media.
How do you go about dealing with the hard part of promoting your work in a way that feels genuine and resonates with your audience?
My #1 intention is to be honest with people, and not come off as if I’ve got all my shit together. That was difficult for a couple of years as I struggled to balance that with all the things I was learning about marketing, selling yourself and social proof.
As you might guess by the titles of my books, I come from a church background, in which many of the leaders were placed on pedestals and were often looked at as being above the rest of the people, whether because of their education or their position. As a result they were hard to approach, talk to, and relate to.
If I had problems, I didn’t feel like I could approach those leaders directly and say, “Here’s exactly what I’m dealing with, how do I fix it?” I was too busy worrying about phrasing it in a way that was acceptable to that environment. Most of the time I just didn’t bring it up at all, which is what leads to that thing where everyone walks around faking a smile and pretending everything is okay. I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want others to do that with me.
For that reason, I decided very early on when I started to gain influence with people that I wouldn’t allow myself to be placed on a pedestal.
That’s actually something I learned from watching you years ago, because that was probably the biggest thing that stood out to me when I met you. You were very intentional, and made it a big point to tell people, “Hey! I’m just a normal guy with a vision! I don’t have anything more than you have, you can do the same thing I’m doing!” It took the boundaries out of my mind, where I no longer thought in terms of “I can’t do that because I don’t have the gifts or the education they have.”
That approach to being honest, and just being human with other humans became one of the most vital roles in promoting my work because people know up front that I’m on their level. I’m not speaking from a higher place of education, or anything like that. I’m speaking as a person who is figuring this stuff out just like they are, and the invitation is open to grow with me.
By the book reviews and emails I’ve received, that is what has resonated with and helped people the most.
Question #3: How do you get unstuck and get started putting your head down and doing the work?
Author and screenwriter Steven Pressfield frequently writes about what he calls “resistance” - that is, the inevitable (and often intangible, irrational) struggle that artists and “creative types” can face when they are dealing with trying to bring something new into the world.
This can take many forms but I know for me it can often show up with just a general sense of agitation, irritation, and apathy. I’ll hear thoughts in my head like, “What’s the point? Why even bother? You’ve spent so much time and energy doing (insert project here) - why not just stop now?”
I often deal with it by hanging up things around my house that inspire me or help keep me focused on what I’m aiming at. This also takes the form of a lot of white boards, posters, quotes that inspire me, etc. There are also a number of places that I spend a lot of time (like my office, bedroom, kitchen) where I intentionally leave books I am reading that contain subject matter that help me stay focused.
I also do this as a way to remind myself that I don’t actually WANT to pick up my phone and scroll mindlessly on the internet or social media.
How do you get unstuck and get started putting your head down and doing the work?
My biggest suggestion would be to write things down so you can prioritize them.
This is VITAL in maintaining your sanity when you have a gold rush of ideas constantly going through your head.
Here are a few of my ideas/goals:
- I want to write another book
- I want to finish recording my album
- I want to do live shows and tour
- I want to get signed to a label (namely, Procrastinate! Music Traitors, because it’s founded by the members of my all time favorite band, Brand New)
- I want to make a video game
- I want to learn more about graphic design
Each of those ideas has a lot more ideas nested inside of them, so it can get really overwhelming really fast. Then it seems tempting to do a little of each of them so you can build them up together. Except I’ve tried that for years and I end up not doing much of any of them. “You can’t serve two masters,” as they say!
So pick one. Which one? For me, I’ve decided to focus on my writing, keeping my website up-to-date with new content, and working on my books. Why did I pick that? Because after weighing the pros and cons of pursuing each of the above, I realized that out of them, writing is what I have the most knowledge in, and it’s what I can do effectively without having to spend too much time educating myself.
In short, it will give me the greatest return on my investment of time because the groundwork for it has already been laid. I have the network, I have the fan-base, I have the reputation, and I want to invest my time into those things, specifically the people who have stuck with me over the years.
On the other hand, while I’ve spent a lot of time making music over the past 13 years, I haven’t spent a lot of time promoting it. As a result, in order to get anywhere with it I would have to invest a lot of time just in building the foundation. I’ll most certainly end up doing that at some point, but first I need something that can continue to be sustainable in the background while I focus on that.
Again, that would be my writing because it’s the thing I’ve put most of my focus on over the years; it’s the thing that’s already built.
It doesn’t always come down to “What am I most passionate about?” It often comes down to “What am I the best at right now, and how can I use that as a stepping stone to fund my way to the next thing?”
It’s easy to lay out that path when you write your ideas down, because then you can physically rearrange them. On the contrary when it’s all in your head it’s like trying to catch and arrange millions of specs of dust by order of their size. How do you do that when they’re always moving?
Thoughts are always moving, writing them down is what causes them to stand still. That will help you draw out the path you need to take to get to wherever you want to go.
WRAPPING UP: What's Next & What Are You Reading Lately?
Thanks so much for your time today - How can people find you and stay in touch with what you’re working on?
Is there anything else that you would like to add or something you’d like people to check out?
The amount of practical and motivational advice you get for free from these guys is absolutely amazing.
I am off the grid in 2017, meaning I have no social media profiles except for my Quora profile.
You can follow me there, and get updates from my blog at drsilva.net by signing up for my mailing list.
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