Show Notes:32. Thomas Umstattd — Going Viral & First Steps In Author Marketing
Thomas Umstattd, Jr. is an author, speaker, and consultant helping authors better market their writing. He provides online tools and advice through his company Author Media.
Thomas is also a co-host of the Novel Marketing Podcast. Like The Pastor Writer podcast, Thomas’s reaches a much broader audience than novelists. It’s one of the writing podcasts I listen to weekly.
In our conversation, we discuss how writers should think about marketing and how they can get started even before they’re published.
The following is an automated transcription. It is recorded exactly as it was spoken.
Chase Replogle: 00:00 You’re listening to the pastor writer podcast, episode 32.
Chase Replogle: 00:05 Before we jump into our episode today, I just wanted to say congratulations to Travis McNeely. He was the randomly drawn winner for our Christian writer’s book giveaway. I had a lot of fun doing it. We had over a thousand contestants enter and so it’s definitely something I think I’ll do more of in the future, so stay tuned. Also, if you haven’t already, I would really appreciate you leaving a review on itunes and subscribing to the podcast. Reviews are the best way for me to be able to hear what you think of the show and to continue making improvements. Joining me on the podcast today is going to be Thomas Umstattd Jr. He’s the cohost of the novel marketing podcast, the podcast that I listen to pretty much every week. I was excited to have him on to be able to talk about the marketing work he does with authors as well as his own experience with a blog post going viral and all of the followed, a book that controversy and a little bit of drama as well. I know it’s a conversation you’ll enjoy and get a lot out of. Thanks for listening.
Chase Replogle: 00:58 Joining me on the podcast today is Thomas Upmstattd jr. He is a speaker, author and consultant and the founder of author media company that creates technology resources for authors. He’s also a podcaster, the a newly launched, I think liberty buzzard, just listened to the first episode of that as well as the creative funding show and one of the podcasts that I listen to just about every week, the novel marketing podcast. Thomas and his wife live in austin, Texas, and they are expecting their first child here in just a couple of weeks. So first off, congratulations and Thomas, thanks for joining me on the podcast.
Thomas Umstattd: 01:29 Thanks chase. I’m excited to be here.
Chase Replogle: 01:32 Well, maybe a place we could start is with the novel marketing podcasts. My suspicion is so I’m not a novelist and yet it’s one of the ones that I listen to pretty frequently. Most of the people who listen to this podcast would realize that even though it’s called the pastor writer podcasts, and though there’s a large part of the audience that are pastors and writers, the audience is really bigger and more diverse than that. For us, it tends to be anyone who’s sort of thinking about writing through the lens of their faith, trying to contemplate sort of deeper understanding of that calling. I suspect the same is probably true for the novel marketing podcast. So maybe you could tell us a lIttle bit about the podcast as well as the audience behind it.
Thomas Umstattd: 02:09 Yeah. So novel marketing is innovative ways of selling more books. So for fiction and for nonfiction, we started off being just for novelists because it’s harder for novelists, uh, some of the things that nonfiction folks can do. It’s harder if you’re writing a novel. It’s like blogging for instance, is not a particularly effective strategy if you’re writing a novel, but it’s incredibly effective if you’re writing nonfiction. But, uh, it turned out that I’m making it just for novelists. Didn’t scare away anyone. So we’ve broadened the audience a little bit in the last year or so, and we talk about nonfiction topics as well and how to sell more nonfiction books. And really you want to start listening to podcasts like this a year, 18 months before your book comes out. The principle is you want to dig your well before you’re thirsty and a lot of people don’t think about promoting their book or selling their book, they’re finished writing it and that, it’s like planting a tree for your babies swing when you get pregnant. It’s like you’re, you know, you need to plant the tree sooner than that. So you kind of get that now working for you ahead of time.
Chase Replogle: 03:12 Well, maybe you could share a little bit too about how those responsibilities have shifted when it comes to marketing. So some people may think that the primary task is to write a book, but I think you would say that there’s more that goes alongside that marketing being one of these key components. So how, how today is, is that responsibility different for authors or people who were thinking about writing a book?
Thomas Umstattd: 03:33 So spreading the word about your book is part of your ministry. If you’re called to write, that book is not going to do anyone any good unless they read it and how can they read it if they haven’t heard about it and been convinced not just to buy it, but to actually read it when they take it home. And as a marketer you have kind of two objectives. One is to get them to bring the book home, but the second is to actually take it off the shelf and openness because a lot of people buy books that they never ended up reading and if they don’t read the book, it’s just dead. Paper doesn’t come alive until it’s alive in someone’s mind. You plant the ideas in somebody’s mind and so I think for a lot of pastors they feel guilty about marketing the book or they feel like as a christian it’s not something they’re supposed to do, but if your book really does help people, if it really is a blessing to the people who read it and and hopefully everyone listenings books as a blessing.
Thomas Umstattd: 04:25 If your book is a curse for people reading it, then maybe you shouldn’t be marketing it and maybe you shouldn’t publish it either for that matter, but if it is helpful, you need to spread the word and you need to know how to do that effectively because your time is limited in. Your money is limited and some things work better than others and that’s a lot of what we talked about on on novel marketing. There’s a. Going back to your question, there’s this sense that in the olden days, authors wrote the book and their publishers published it and now the author has to market it. Really the authors always been responsible for marketing it and the publisher will market it. Once you prove to them that it’s worth marketing. So the principal from matthew to him who has more will be given unto him who does not have. Even what he thinks he has will be taken away, applies to publishing houses. They put all of their marketing dollars behind the best performing books because that’s what gets them the best return. So you have to be able to have a book that is a best performing book for them, which means often you have to do the early lifting yourself.
Chase Replogle: 05:26 This was a sort of a big hurdle when I first started writing, thinking through, um, you all of your attention, and I think somewhat rightfully so is, is how do I write the best book that I possibly can? How do I really take that act seriously? But I began to discover that very, very, very few people actually read the book in the publishing process. And on top of that, no one who buys your book reads that book before they pay for it, which may seem a little bit obvious, but I think it has some big implications. It means that when somebody is buying is the words that are on page 120 that you spent, you know, a week crafting perfectly. They’re buying the idea, right? They’re buying the concept of what the book is. And being able to articulate that and think that through is a big part of, of writing. And a big part of bringing that book to an audience. Um, it’s been my experience that that’s not kind of a difficult hurdle to initially sort of recognize that the idea of the book and how I articulate that idea is in many ways as important as the writing itself.
Thomas Umstattd: 06:25 That’s right. What they’re buying is the promise that you make and the better of promise that you make, the more likely they are to buy the book and the more likely they are to believe that you can deliver on your promise, the more likely they are to buy the book. now, typically people don’t recommend books unless they’ve read them, which is why word of mouth is so powerful and publishing because it’s like person recommending the book is like the one person in the process who’s actually read to the book. You know, your agent may or may not read the book. You’re a publisher’s marketing team, may or may not read the book, right? If they were launching two books a week or three books a week, they don’t have time to read all of those books. And so it’s all about explaining, uh, the book is, will smith once said, we’re not in the movie business, we’re in the movie trailer business. I think that that’s true for books as well, and it’s all about how it’s packaged and presented a, you have to get that right first before people will go on to read it and be blessed by the content on the inside.
Chase Replogle: 07:20 Yeah. And you’re right. Hopefully, um, hopefully, I mean the book really catches on with actual readers and it does begin to spread word of mouth through reviews. People who have spent time in the book, but I’ve found even those people, I’m a strong idea, a strong way of articulating what the book is about, makes that book easier for someone who’s read it to then go and tell a friend about, um, they have an understanding or a way of wrapping their brain around the concept of the book that makes it easier for them to share, easier for them to review. And I do think those things, the way that they articulated, the way the book is framed is part of this responsibility we talk about for an author owning the marketing, owning that process of the book publishing. And I’m curious, you mentioned earlier that you say people need to start listening to something like the novel marketing podcasts before they start marketing the book. Uh, I know one of the things you offer as a course, and I loved this concept, it’s a five year course for novelists thinking through writing and marketing their book. Most of us imagine at most, this is like a year long process and we’re laying out five years worth of steps to see this thing through. Um, how early do you think thinking about marketing should start taking place for someone who’s maybe hasn’t even started writing a book yet but is considering it?
Thomas Umstattd: 08:30 So the answer depends on whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. So our five year plan is for novelis primarily and for novelists. The first two years of that plan are almost exclusively about craft becoming a good writer because ultimately I’m good marketing will help a bad novel fail faster. A nonfiction book can actually be very poorly written and still succeed and there are poorly written nonfiction books that are New York times bestsellers and stayed near types of photos for a long period of time because as long as you deliver on your promise, it doesn’t matter as much how well written it is. If you make a good promise and you’re the one who delivers on it, it’s a very successful, but that doesn’t really apply to novels in general are a few exceptions, but the writing’s got to be really solid and part of the reason why it’s five year plan is that we give you shortcuts on how to skip the first five years because most people before they were a bestseller.
Thomas Umstattd: 09:24 It takes about 10 years of practice instead of the five year plan is the like expedited path and I know that’s not what you want to hear. Everyone was like, oh, what’s the overnight path to success? That’s not what we teach in the course, and that’s not really what is real. This is a skill like any other. It takes time to hone. So we start talking about marketing in year three and then years four and five, lean heavier into the marketing part of it. Now, if you’re writing nonfiction, you actually want to start marketing it before you even write the book. And what I recommend for, for nonfiction people to do is to start blogging or podcasting on their topic before they write the book, to see if they are message resonates with their audience and to start that interaction with the audience as soon as possible.
Thomas Umstattd: 10:09 Uh, pastors have a really great advantage of this. If they say the attorney, a sermon series into a book, right? You give the sermons first, you see what the reaction is, if they’re really resonating with your congregation, uh, people are sending in lots of questions. If there’s something that people don’t understand, you’re able to clarify. All of that is information you want before you start to write the book. And you can have a book sold and to a publisher before it is written, if it’s nonfiction, so the processes, you build an audience, you prove that you have residents, that there is a community of people who are excited about what you’re saying, excited about you saying it, he put together a book proposal, you write two or three sample chapters in that book proposal can get you an agent and it can get you a publishing contract. So the wrIting of the book comes last in nonfiction or as it comes first in fiction and nonfiction. That marketing is really big part of it. And I will say is part of the ministry. So if you’re blogging on your topic, you can start blessing people right away and you can change the world with the blog before the book even comes out. So, uh, don’t see the book as the end goal. See it as a tool that it takes awhile to develop and you can start blessing people right away. Online.
Chase Replogle: 11:21 Yeah, I think that’s a, it’s a helpful thought because the whole process can seem really overwhelming, especially if you’re thinking about it as my end goal is to write a book, therefore I have to do this blog post and I have to, you know, create these social media accounts. I’ve got to get this thing going just so that I can do that thing to then get the publishing contractor to get the book published. Um, I think you really have to take an approach, like you’re saying where the process is the work right from the very beginning, the work that I’m doing in blogging or interacting kind of building an audience that that’s in some ways just as a part of the work is the writing of the book itself, which can be difficult to wrap your mind around at first. And I think for most people sort of overwhelming. I’m thinking about this book, I’m interested in this topic and now you’re saying I’ve got to like create a blog around it and build an audience, create social media accounts. I’ve got to. So what are some of the ways that a person could begin that process sort of step into the marketing early on, some of the maybe the first most important steps in your mind to be able to test that out with the intentions of maybe it then leading down the road to an actual book.
Thomas Umstattd: 12:23 So for nonficTion, and I definitely believe the blog is the place to get started, partly because what you’re doing for the blog can end up in your book. so if a blog posts really resonates with your audience, you’re like, hmm, maybe this will be a good chapter. And I was recently at the amazon paid brick and mortar bookstore here in austin. They’ve opened up some brick and mortar bookstores around the country as experiments and the nonfiction section was packed full of books that were blogs first even to like cartoons. A section like the cartoon books were cartoons that had been published previously to instagram or published previously to the blog of the cartoonist. And this is the way to know that you have a guaranteed hit on your hands is by market testing the materials. So you write 500 blog posts and the top 100 are the ones in your book and you know what the top 100 are because you know if they’re being shared on facebook, you know if people are commenting them on them, you know how many people are reading that article and how long they’re spending on your articles so you have this incredible data that you really can’t get any other way.
Thomas Umstattd: 13:31 When somebody is reading your book, you have no idea if they finish it or how long they’re spending reading it or if they’re Just skimming it and you’re just guessing. Amazon has a data but it won’t share it with you so you don’t know or isn’t somebody who’s reading your thoughts on your blog and you can get really good data and again, why would you have to be faithful with the little things before you can be faithful with more and why would someone pay to read your book if they won’t read your blog for free? Now some people are like, oh, but if they’ve read my blog, they won’t pay to read my book, and I think that misunderstands how mediums are different, so you can give somebody a free copy of your ebook and they may still buy the paper book because there’s something valuable and owning the paper book, it’s like saying no one’s gonna waTch lord of the rings. Everyone’s already read the book. It’s like no one’s gonna pay to watch Harry Potter. Everyone’s already read the book. The reality is that people who pay, who are reading your blog are going to be the first in line to read your book, just like the people who read a Harry Potter or the first in line to watch the movie.
Chase Replogle: 14:30 Well, I know you’ve experienced this firsthand to, uh, you’ve been blogging for quite some time and we can get into sort of how that played itself up into a book for you as well too. But I’m beyond giving advice to authors and working with authors, developing tools for authors and marketing. Um, how did you get started writing? When did your interest in writing begin?
Thomas Umstattd: 14:49 So it started blogging college and I had a really terrible zenga blog. I didn’t know anything about blogging and I wasn’t really studying it and this was before facebook, so zenia kind of doubled as our social network. And then facebook came to my college. It was this big celebration and I eventually learned about blogging and I got better at blogging, but I did taste some success even in those early days. I remember I was going through some discipleship with this other guy and we were discussing what is a godly man. And that question came up and we kind of put together a list of attributes that made a godly man. And I published that list of attributes on my blog and it ranked on google for the phrase godly man for like five years. So if you search for godly man on google in the late 2000, early, late aughts, uh, there’s a good chance you came to my blog.
Thomas Umstattd: 15:44 Didn’t help me get a girlfriend, like I’m right here on google and Just searched, prevent. But, um, and, and I was like, wow, there’s some real power here. Because I was reacHing thousands of people with this blog post about godly manhood and I was entirely unqualified to write about godly man and I was a college student, and yet this was what was ranking. And the reason why it was ranking is that at the time, no one else has really blogging about that. I had the right keywords, I had the right seo, search engine optimization, and all of these are very learnable skills. You know, we’d talk about it on novel marketing and uh, I found realize how powerful it was. And then, um, anyway, to make a long story short, I later wrote a blog post about courtship and the goal of me writing the blog post was to be able to go on dates because at the time I believed in courtship and courtship.
Thomas Umstattd: 16:33 If you ask a girl out for coffee, you know, it has to be for the purpose of marriage because everything is for the purpose of marriage. So it’s effectively a wedding proposal. And so none of the guys asked, and none of the girls say yes when they’re asked. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to experiment with this new thing my grandmother taught me. That was actually the old way that they did it back in the 19 fifties, but since I was mr courtship and ran a whole blog on courtship, I had to come out of the closet so to speak, on dating and relationships and how I didn’t believe in courtship anymore. So I wrote a blog post titled wide courtship is fundamentally flawed and my goal was if I can reach 10,000 people I will be able to go on dates and no one will misunderstand.
Thomas Umstattd: 17:10 I’ll reach out, reach the group I’m trying to reach. So I post it and it got 10,000 views. The first day. Like I posted at 4:00 and I think by the end of the day it had 10,000 views and then it had like 20 or 30,000 views the next day. And then I think the next 100,000 views in one day. And by the end of a month or so I had roughly a million page views from almost every country in the world on this blog post. and I had started a conversation and the whole country, or at least in the conservative, you know, homeschool world, about courtship and whether it was a good idea and whether it was a bad idea and that ultimately led to a kickstarter led to the book and I already had this huge audience that was ready for the book and with wanting to help me out and they sent me and hundreds of stories of people’s personal stories of experiences with courtship, both good and bad, and all of that came from people who left comments on the log and super controversial.
Thomas Umstattd: 18:06 I had hundreds of people writing blog posts about why it was wrong, so I was kind of in the spotlight there for a little while, but the reality was that that blog post more or less killed the word courtship, hasn’t killed the practice, but almost no one uses the word courtship anymore. And tHat blog post is basically directly responsible for the end of that practice. And even Joshua Harris now who wrote the book, I kissed, dating goodbye, has kissed. I kissed, dating goodbye. Goodbye. Coming out with a documentary about how he’s evolved on his position and um, I’m actually, uh, was interviewed for that documentary so you can change the world just with your blog. You don’t need a book to do it.
Chase Replogle: 18:46 Yeah. I, so I knew a little bit of this story from you before and one of the things I think would be really interesting to explore is everybody imagines that this is the goal, right? The best thing that could possibly happen, right? You put a blog post step, it goes viral, sort of spreads just naturally because you’ve hit this topic, it works itself out into a, into a book, sort of the perfect scenario. Um, I’m really curious if people could see behind the scenes of that for a second, what obviously the benefits was that it led to a community and an audience and a book, but what are some of the maybe non tangible benefits that people wouldn’t recognize them with it? What are some of the disappointments you had or maybe some of the things that did not play out the way that somebody would assume they would by having a blog posts go without viral.
Thomas Umstattd: 19:31 So the hate and the furious snus of the hate was a little different. Difficult. I mean, my mom was readIng her friends on facebook saying that I should have a millstone tied around my neck and for me to be cast into the sea because. Because I wasn’t advocating courtship obviousLy as advocating a secular sexual ethic, which if you actually read what I post says that’s not at all what I’m recommending. Um, but you know, the, the interesting thing is that when people want to hate you, they don’t really care to read what you’re saying. And they’re looking for ways to misinterpret what you’re saying. And that was really difficult in dealing with the ferocity of hate. SomeBody wrote a series of blog posts titled why courtship is not fundamentally flawed, part one of seven. Then the next week it was part two. Oh seven. She’s doing a seven part blog series rebutting me.
Thomas Umstattd: 20:22 And and rebutting isn’t hate actually I found that very helpful and some people brought up some valid points and we had a valuable discussion, but there was lots of name calling and my christianity was questioned and I lost a lot of friends. I have friends who still don’t talk to me because of that blog post. And that was probably the highest cost was the cost in relationships, some of which have been reconciled now, um, because a lot of the for the other side or have become quiet for one reason or another. And so it’s harder to take that position. And it was when I wrote the blog post, but some of those relationships have not been reconciled in that that is, is a grievous thing. And then the other costs in. I should talk to harris about this because he experienced the same thing. When you write a famous book or a famous blog post about dating and relationships before you yourself are married, it puts all of your future relationships into this fishbowl that everyone is watching.
Thomas Umstattd: 21:22 And it becomes a manifesto on the quality of your ideas for good or for bad. So people are just or wanting to judge you based off of the failure of your own dating relationships. And so it made the post that was supposed to make it easier for me to date and it did. I mean I went on a lot of dates after I wrote the post and ultimately did find my wife and we have, you know, the baby coming is, as you said, uh, but in other ways it made it very difficult and complicated because I had thousands of people rooting for me to fail in my dating relationships so that they could use that as an example for why my ideas were bad when the scientist in me is like, one data point doesn’t prove or disprove anything. You know, I’m talking about social norms here. I’m talking about society and your one story is just one story and you have to look beyond yourself to see the impacts of these ideas on culture more broadly. But, um, that was something I definitely did not anticipate that complication in my dating life.
Chase Replogle: 22:19 Yeah. It was just writing on a blog post on my site this week, talking about Jordan Peterson and this sort of phenomenon and I tried to make the point towards the end that one of the dangers is we start to imagine people as positions, right, that these people who stand out and talk about something become sort of a fill in for a position or sort of a, an ideal of that position. And it gets really dangerous, really complicated quickly. Um, how, how did that evolve? So I guess we could talk sort of practically, how did you then say, oh, I’m going to turn this into a book and that process go, but I’m also curious how that impacted you as a writer. So the experience sort of some of that pain you went through a, it didn’t stop you from writing more about it. So how did it shape you in your opinion as a writer and then the actual work of writing the book?
Thomas Umstattd: 23:07 So I didn’t want to write the book and somebody had been working with authors for five or six years at that point, maybe seven years. Uh, I knew how difficult writing a book was and I knew how much money it costs to do it if you wanted to self publish and uh, especially if you want to do it right and surround yourself with the same kinds of people who work on traditionally published books. And I was just like, oh, I don’t want to do this. And I had enough people including some catholic priests sexually. Um, and other like protestant pastors are like, you need to write this book. And I was like, I’m a put it on kickstarter and if y’all raised $10,000, I’ll write the book. So I put the book on and they raised $11,000. And so the good thing was, yay, I have the money, you know, god’s provided the money through all of these generous backers who’ve basically preordered the book that I have not yet written.
Thomas Umstattd: 23:58 Uh, the downside was I had to write the book. So I tried working with a manuscript developer and that, that didn’t quite work out right. And ultimately when they ended up doing for most of the chapters was I wrote them as blog posts first and this was really helpful. There’s actually chapters that never made it into the book because they were just too misunderstood, uh, or too confusing or they didn’t hit the right note. And so the rough draft, rough drafts of those chapters, many of them exist on my blog on thomas. I’m set.com. And this was really helpful because all of those haters ultimately ended up giving feedback and made my book stronger. And by listening to them, uh, I ended up with a stronger book because I was able to incorporate their arguments into the text itself or I was able to modify my arguments to take into account what they were saying.
Thomas Umstattd: 24:51 And it also kept it a very conversational tone and it kind of very modern writing style, uh, because what works for blog is a very specific style of writing and that academic style doesn’t work so well. My book was about an academic topic. I mean, ultimately it’s about the social norms of dating and relationships, which is normally like yo, no one wants to read that. The fact that I blogged at first kind of forced me into a more conversational tone of doing that and it’s not to say that everything is in the blog, especially a lot of my solution chapter six exist exclusively in the book. So you know, there’s still an incentive to read the book and what’s in the book is better because incorporated the feedback from the comments. I incorporated the feedback from my whole team of editors that I had. And if you read the book, the back two pages or credits of people either volunteered to help with the book or who are paid in one way or another to develop the cover or to do manuscript editing, copy editing.
Thomas Umstattd: 25:49 And uh, it really felt like I was writing the book in community if there was a whole team of people that were writing the book with me. So what I would do is I would start off each chapter as a google doc and I had a research team that would be, I’m giving feedback on the google doc and they didn’t start comments and they would come into each other’s comments. We’d have a debate right there in google docs about the material. It was so fun. That was my part of this whole journey I enjoyed the most, was discussing the ideas with my research team in google docs where one paragraph would spark this whole discussion that would be really informative and then we’d all like go back to the bible and do some research. And what ended up as a result was a much stronger book than what I have had otherwise.
Thomas Umstattd: 26:34 So that’s kind of how the process works. We can talk more about like how to self publish a book if you want, and I can kind of get into the more of the blocking and tackling. But um, then what I did is I would post that version based off the research team’s feedback to my blog and then I get this whole bunch of bigger, meaner or response from the public at large and then I would then edit that and then the editor, so I had three editors and this is a common mistake people make when they’re self publishing. They only hire one editor and there’s different kinds of editors who do different kinds of edits. So I had a man, I edit a manuscript developer who is almost like a pre editor. Then I had a developmental editor, a copy editor, and then finally after it was typeset, a proofreader. And so the version that’s in the final book, it’s very clean and very tight because of all of those people contributing to it.
Chase Replogle: 27:21 Yeah. We had a blake atwood, a freelance editor on a back towards the beginning of the podcast and we break down the different kinds of editing if you’re interested. That’s a great one. But I hear, I hear a theme in what you’re describing there that is, is it fits with the image or sort of the things I associate with you. So often when I see you doing work online, it tends to be in connection or relationship to other writers or people in the industry. Um, I often associate you as sort of having some of these important sort of network relationships. Um, and I love this idea because it’s so counterintuitive to what most of us think a writer is of writing and doing this work publicly and in community because we sort of have the idealized image that I withdraw to some writing shed in the woods somewhere or some cabin and I spent three months in solitude and writing this thing and working through every detail. And then you’re right, I send it, there’s that. There’s an editor who, you know, fixes the commas and sends me back a clean copy. And then it’s a book, uh, which is a much different process than you’re describing of I have a google doc and I’m writing and people are arguing and critiquing literally in the process of me writing this, uh, in your mind, how valuable our relationships to a writer and what are some of those important relationships you think every writer should have working around them.
Thomas Umstattd: 28:35 The relationships are everything. I mean ultimately the world is made up of people and our relationships to those people affect how we impact the world, right? We’re not trying to convince the dogs and cats to change their thinking and ultimately the book’s going to be read by people. People are going to be the ones spreading it and buying it, et cetera. And so relationships really are critical. And sometimes because a author is introverted and I will say I am introverted, so I do not gain energy interacting with people and gain energy being alone or being with my wife. But that doesn’t mean that relationships aren’t still important. And, um, other people’s perspectives aren’t so important. So I really went out of my way to get all of that feedback. Partly I will say, because I was afraid because the hate was so loud, I felt like I needed lots of eyeballs on this because people are looking, going to look for things to criticize and I didn’t want to write out a fear because there’s one way to write when you’re afraid, where you’re very vague in your language so that you don’t offend anyone, but you also don’t communicate what you’re saying.
Thomas Umstattd: 29:41 Like good writing is offensive, right? The bible is offensive. It’s not offensive to everyone and it’s not offensive in every point, but you have to be willing to be offensive if you, if you want to communicate. And I wanted to make sure I offended people in the right ways and about the right topics. So you want to pick your battles and uh, you gotta be really careful about that. And you know, I had one of the people on my research team was by pastor, right? I had a, like a theological review and you know, he had me take some things out that could have been misunderstood. And in hindsight, I’m really glad I did. I had this whole section where I was talking about the concubine and judges who was gang raped and her husband chopped her up in the center of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Thomas Umstattd: 30:26 And it was in hindsight, like this is not a passage of scripture that you should be like introducing baby believers to takes a lot of explaining and understanding context. And it’s just very strange. So it, by taking that out, the point was made stronger with different scriptural support. Um, so I don’t know if that answers your question, but communities is really important. Oh, and one of the things about community, not only do they help you with the writing of the book that they help you with promoting the book. and a lot of authors, if they have a really small circle of friends and they know their friends aren’t very influential, influential, it’s really hard to get that initial critical mass that will, that’s required to get the ball rolling down the hill or the rock rolling down the hill. That hits the bigger rocket and bigger rock.
Thomas Umstattd: 31:13 Like you can’t throw a pebble off the hill necessarily, you have to throw a rock big enough to dislodge the next bigger rock and you’ve got to know where to throw that rock and those rocks are the relationships and you’ve gotta have some relationships. So I’m getting to know other influential bloggers, blogging and community podcasting in community, like what you’re doing, reaching out to other folks. You know, I’ll be promoting this episode two people that I know and they may find your show through that you can’t be in a cave the whole time unless you have a lot of money to spend on advertising to strangers. But if you don’t have that money, you got to be out cultivating relationships with other authors and publishers and agents and all the rest of it. God filled the world with people on purpose and avoiding them is not the path to a healthy, happy life.
Chase Replogle: 32:00 Well, what are some ways, because I know there are listeners who are, um, they’re wrIting, they’re wanting to write their thinking about how to do that more professionally to get their writing out there. And maybe this is not something they’d been intentional about. How do I go about cultivating or building relationships? And you’re right, I was sort of in that place. Uh, I’m not, I do not have writers in my family. I’m not friends with editors that I sort of grabbed lunch with from time to time, especially when I was starting. So for me the podcast was a big piece of that. just trying to build relationships and be able to ask questions that people that without it I wouldn’t have known. But what are some ways you recommend as you interact with authors on how they can make new connections? They can start forming some of those relationships they can find professional
Thomas Umstattd: 32:40 networks to be a part of. So we actually have hit this topic several times with a novel marketing. So my cohost james robart is the king of this making friends. He has a friend in every town and uh, he, you know, he’s a, he’s very rich and friendships and very good at developing friendships and he has shared those tips. So whatever you get from me is just going to be a shadow of, of what he gives in terms of making friends with editors and agents, and I think it’s all in the clinical sales category on a novel marketing if you want to check those out. But, uh, another thing to put together as a cohort, we have another free episode on this actually on. I’m starting a writer’s group and I have a course on this if you really want to get into it, buT creating a community and being the one to create community in any town.
Thomas Umstattd: 33:28 Typically there are hundreds of writers who are waiting for somebody else to start the writer’s group, but because they all lean shy, that writers are more likely to be shy than like normal people. They’re wanting somebody else to start the group. So starting the group’s actually pretty easy if you’re willing to do it, but almost no one’s actually willing to do it themselves. And there’s some really great tools like meetup.com that can help you find other writers in your Area. I know churches often can have very prosperous and vibrant writers groups at one time. My church had two different writers groups met on two different days. Um, and uh, so, you know, chrisTians encouraging each other. I’m a part of a online mastermind group where I meet with other writers twice a month on a google hangout. So we see each other face to face despite the fact that we’re in four different time zones.
Thomas Umstattd: 34:16 And, uh, we share what’s going on in our lives. We encourage each other, we pray for each other, we teach each other what we’ve learned and that is so life giving and so life giving and was really helpful actually when it came to pursuing my wife and doing a lot of difficult things and they were some of the first ones to help promote the blog post when it came out. Some of them anyway, others were afraid to be publicly seen associated with me because they were making money off of homeschoolers. They’re afraid they’re going to get back black ball, which was a very real risk. So creating that kind of group, whether it’s in person or online, is really important and I’m like, that’s almost a topic for a whole podcast episode, how to do that. Um, but I will say if you’re a pastor, you already know how to do this.
Thomas Umstattd: 34:58 We’re already creating community and a lot of the tips that I give when I teach on the secular layer out of matthew 18 on dealing with conflict and the other teachings of jesus, he gives really good advice on how to create community and how to start churches. And the church has figured this out over the last 2000 years. And in a sense of writer’s group is just a, another kind of church, a gathering of believers with a common purpose. And a, it’s the, I forget what the greek word is, but the gathering, right? It’s, that’s what it is. Yeah. What else? I think,
Chase Replogle: 35:30 uh, there’s a few of them. So yeah. Uh, one of the things I’ll throw out to is, uh, you can find these people, not necessarily just as other writers, but just people who love to read can be a big benefit too. So I think about, I’ll give a shout out, one of the friends I have in our congregation justice reads all of my early drafts and so, and they’re usually pretty early on, like more, more early on than I’m comfortable showing other people, but uh, he’s great. It’s sort of like, you know, just he’s not concerned about the grammar or the sentences, but just the flow of thought and poking holes in some of my arguments are catching me when I sort of drift off or go down a rabbit trail for something and finding those relationships as well. People, you can just, you mentioned this when you were talking about your google doc, you were working in people that you can just have good conversations with around the topic that you’re writing on. Those are really, really, they’ve been really valuable relationships for me. I hear you saying the same thing, so I know they would be. If you can cultivate those for others.
Thomas Umstattd: 36:25 That’s right. And the industry term for that kind of person as a beta reader and the key with working with beta readers, and this is really important to point out, you don’t take their solutions as a reader, they don’t know how to fix your story and they’ll often give you suggested fixes and they’re almost always the wrong way to fix it. What you’re. What you’re listening for, for your beta readers is what the problems are like. Like this didn’t make sense or you are rambling. You need to cut it shorter. Maybe you don’t need to cut it short. You actually need to enhance the story to be more interesting in those ports. Maybe you do cut it shorter, but what you’re listening for, the things that don’t make sense that the problems, and especially if that beta reader is a fan of yours genre that you’re writing in, right? If you’re writing about prayer and they read a bunch of books about prayer, oh my goodness, I’d love to have that person read my book and give me early feedback on how to make it more helpful or go ahead. No, I was going to say that’s a really good
Chase Replogle: 37:18 caveat because one of the things I’ll do with beta readers is I’ll tend to ask really specific questions or try to engage in a conversation around it. So I’m not just saying, what did you think? You know, what was good, what was bad? I’m trying to say, hey, what did you think of this point? How did that develop? How would you sum up what I said in this section and be able to see how well they’ve sort of internalized are able to articulate back the things I was trying to say and that can be really revealing about where I was not clear and what parts were resonating that were really the strength of that chapter or section.
Thomas Umstattd: 37:48 That’s right. And I shouldn’t say with a google doc actually did that in two waves. So I had the research team and then I also had a group called beta readers and I forget which one was the bigger one, but I had the big group and then four or five people from the group of maybe 20 were giving the most valuable feedback. And so I created, I started doing, as I started sharing the doc with those four people first and getting their feedback, and then as it got more polished, I shared it with the broader group. Um, and that was helpful. So as you get feedback, you, uh, some people are like, this was good. No, that’s not helpful. I need you to tell me what was good and what was bad. And you’ll find people who are really good at doing that and you’ll find that getting them involved like that makes them very invested in your book. And they want to see your book via success. There’ll be often also on your launch team and to help you launch it, which is a whole nother topic right there. Your beta readers are often ideal candidates for your alleged launch team because they’re so invested in your book already. It’s almost like they helped write it. They want to see it sell as many copies as possible.
Chase Replogle: 38:49 Yeah. That line is going to be a little bit different for, for everyone on when you bring readers in. But I think what we’re both saying is the more people that are involved, the more people you can bring into the process at whatever point that is for you, the better. The bigger that that opportunity’s going to be. I think we both agree.
Thomas Umstattd: 39:04 Yeah. And one more thing on the city is important as you get lots of feedback to protect your voice. You don’t want the book to feel like it was written by committee. Uh, which is another reason why I like incorporating the feedback. You have to be really careful to incorporate in a way that still sounds like it’s coming from you. So at any point when you’re like copying and pasting from a beta reader into your book, that’s when you can get writing by committee, which tinsey very watered down in a tepid. So you want to keep that edge to it. And as you become a more confident writers who write more, which is another advantage of blogging ahead of time, is that you get that confidence and that knowledge of who I am as a writer, that you’re able to in that editing process, defend your voice, and a voice is one of these really squishy things that writers are always talking about.
Thomas Umstattd: 39:46 An editor. So I was talking about and right, like you’re pitching your book at a conference and the editors, I could really love your voice. You’re like, what does that mean? It’s like, I use the term now and I still can’t explain it, but it’s, it’s your unique personality expressed through the page, I guess would be my best attempt at explaining it. And you don’t want your personality to be expunged, uh, with all the feedback. And so that’s just a attention you have to navigate. There’s not like some super beta reader out there who can protect your voice, right? Everyone has their own voice and as they add it, you need to not forget who you are.
Chase Replogle: 40:19 Well, what are the questions? That’s pretty common at the end of these interview podcasts as sort of a, what are you working on next? What’s coming up? Uh, but I want to sort of throw one in before that. Uh, I’m curious if the success and the vitality of the, the post on dating, uh, does it ever feel like you sort of got yourself into a voice or into a brand that, uh, that maybe you sort of stumbled into and is boxed you in or has that created new opportunities that you’ve been able to move beyond the topic or to read, read, navigate?
Thomas Umstattd: 40:49 Yeah, that’s a great question. I never set out to be the dating guy and as I think about it, that’s not really who I want to be. So I don’t blog about dating her at all anymore as a married man now, while in some ways I have more credibility. I also have less desire to be in that world and there are other people. In fact, the lady who wrote the forward for my book as a christian counselor named deborah felita and she’s excellent and she’s a counselor and she wants this to be her day job, so I basically just like follow her if you’re wanting blog posts on the latest of what’s going on and should christians use tinder and stuff like that. Deborah felita being in the trenches everyday counseling single people as a believer in having written books on it really is kind of the more optimum person.
Thomas Umstattd: 41:38 But yeah, it was interesting. My first writer’s conference I went to, I was kind of curious what people would see me as or these people can all see me as the courtship guy now, or is this a brand that I’ve built as the book marketing guy, will it survive? And that first conference it was like 50 slash 50 and I ended up talking courtship almost the whole conference, but a that has faded and now and mostly now I feel like people see me more as the book marketing person. But um, yeah, it waS writing. This blog post was off brand for me and it has made my brand a little bit more complicated, but it’s given me a great case study to make an argument for why blogging your book ahead of time. It was a good idea for sure. Uh, there, there was advantages and disadvantages.
Chase Replogle: 42:23 Well then the question is maybe you could tell us what you’re working on, what’s coming up next, and then obviously if people are interested in following the work you’re doing with marketing and developing resources for authors, the best way to be able to find the latest.
Thomas Umstattd: 42:37 Yeah. So the coolest thing I’m working on right now, I’m legally not allowed to talk about yet. Ask me again in a month. Um, but uh, right now in general, I will say podcasTing, uh, so the novel marketing podcast is like my baby. I really enjoyed doing that, but I also have the creative funding show. So like I talked a little bit about kickstarter, uh, earlier on and how we fund in my book with this will create a funny show is dedicated to that question. It’s about how do I make a living as a writer because there’s a lot of riders, even successful writers who are really struggling financially and so the creative funny shows explores that so well a novel is about how to spread the word and some more books, creative funny shit shows more about the kind of the business side and the business models around how to monetize that because you can be very famous and poor and you can be very rich and a obscure or you can be both and understanding kind of how it works. Uh, I enjoy doing those, those episodes quite a bit and talking to people about patrion and indiegogo and sponsorships. It’s really fun. So that’s probably one of the things that I can talk about. That’s what I’m most excited about.
Chase Replogle: 43:39 Well, one of the things I’d love to sort of wrap up with is a, if you sort of imagine someone who’s listening, they’re, they’re just getting into writing. They sense that it may be a part of what god’s calling them to do a from your seat, recognizing the value in the role marketing is going to play in that process. WhaT advice would you give them right now? Maybe the first thing that they should start doing to prepare to be successful with marketing the writing that’s to come.
Thomas Umstattd: 44:01 Uh, so I want to answer this in a practical way and, and not practical way, but they’re both important. So on the Impractical way, I would say realize that god has called you to write. He’s calling you to a ministry to people and that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s called you to be published or to write a book. It might, but realize that your ministry can start right away and it, you know, it can be teaching sunday school at church with the ideas, you know, putting together a series of sunday school lessons that you could teach around the topic that’s on your heart and you can start administering right away and that ministry will help inform your writing. So see it as a ministry and start administering right away. And don’t wait for somebody else to give you permission. You can get started. You already have permission if god’s called you to write, the other more practical thing is to study and just start working this into your routine to start studying marketing.
Thomas Umstattd: 44:56 And there’s lots of great free resources out there. There’s lots of great free or not free, but inexpensive books. I just got back from being at a conferences, $3,000 ticket prices go to this conference and nothing that was taught in the conference couldn’t have been learned in about 20 or $30 worth of books. So reading really is an amazing thing and if you want people to pay to read your books, you should pay to read other people’s books. And I’m saying this is a guy Who does not have a book about book marketing. So I’m not selling my own book here. I’m just saying read somebody else’s books. And I particularly like seth godin. I find that he’s a very helpful and uh, anybody he recommends tends to be really good in the marketing world.
Chase Replogle: 45:38 Well, I, uh, I want to say thanks for the work you do. You may not have a book out, but I would highly recommend even if you’re not a novelist, the, the novel marketing podcasts been one of my favorites and then, uh, the resources you put out or have always been helpful, so thanks for your work in that. Thanks for sharing your story and I’ll make sure people have links so they can be able to follow you, but if they want to stay in touch, social media links are the best place to keep up with what you’re doing.
Thomas Umstattd: 46:01 Uh, yes. And my last name’s hard to spell. Perhaps even put a link in the show notes. There’s just thomas. I’m stat at thomas. I’m step forward slash thompson. I’m the only one. So if you can figure out how to spell it correctly, you can find some sap.com.
Chase Replogle: 46:14 Yeah, I’m in the category of one with a strange last name too. It’s, it makes it easy to get email addresses. So. Well, thanks for joining me today. Look forward to talking again.
Thomas Umstattd: 46:22 Thanks for having me. This is great.
Chase Replogle: 46:29 As always, you can find show notes and links to thomas’ blog as well as his resources and podcasts by going to pastor writer.com/ 32. Again, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind subscribing in itunes and leaving a review, the reviews, and the best way that you can help other people discover the podcast as well as give me some feedback. As always. Thanks for listening. Until next time.