003 – How to Find Your Hustle

Here are the show notes for the most recent episode of the Christian Publishing Show.

You can listen to this episode here.


We live in a world cursed. Because of our sin, God cursed the soil to have thorns and weeds. That curse is pervasive and continues to this day. If you want to have success in farming, you have to put in the work to remove the weeds. If you want to see success in publishing you must be willing to put in the work too.

Our enemy to success is entitlement. Entitlement is expecting crops to grow without work, and it is the killer of many author careers.

This episode is based on a series about what I am looking for in authors to represent as an agent.

Important note: This is the outline for the episode not a transcript. If these notes don’t make complete sense, I encourage you to listen to the audio version.

What entitlement looks like:

  • My idea is so unique my book deserves to get published and sell like crazy.
    • A good idea is not enough to save bad writing and bad marketing.
  • My writing is so good, my book deserves to thrive.
    • Good writing alone is not enough for success.
  • My marketing is good so my book deserves to thrive.
    • Good marketing helps a bad book fail faster.
  • My last book was a bestseller so my next book deserves to be a bestseller.
    • Past success makes future success easier, not guaranteed.
  • My book is a best seller, so it deserves to win awards.
    • The communities that give awards and the communities who buy books are not the same. You must thrill them separately.
  • My book won awards so it deserves to be a bestseller.
    • Most readers don’t care about most awards just like most movie watchers don’t care about the Golden Globes.
  • God called me to write, so my book deserves to thrive.
    • Just because God gave the children of Israel the land of Canaan, doesn’t mean they still didn’t need to work to take possession of the land. There is a big difference between God giving you the power to slay giants and slaying the giants for you.
  • I was successful in my past career so I deserve to thrive in this one.
    • Starting a writing career is no different than starting any other career. Michael Jordan’s success in basketball did not make him a star baseball player.

The solution to entitlement: hustle.

Hustle Factor #1 Learning

A teachable spirit is critical for success. It is also a hallmark of truly great writers.

I remember giving a talk on persuasion at Mount Hermon. It was the end of the week and it was an optional session and there were not many authors in the room. But do you know who was in the room on the front row? Someone who at the time was one of the most famous people in Christian Publishing.

The great ones never stop improving.

The two areas you need to never stop learning are:

  • Writing
  • Marketing

Eventually, you will get to the point where you run out of traditional learning sources. It is hard for me to find books or courses on marketing that aren’t teaching what I already know, for instance. But that doesn’t mean my learning ends. It means I have to find new ways to learn.

This means watching what people are doing and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. It also means looking outside of my industry to see what people are doing in other places to promote their work.

This happens with craft as well. Masters like Steven King learn not by taking classes on writing (although he may still do that from time to time) but by reading lots and lots of books. They also keep getting coaching from their editors. Tiger Woods still has a golf coach. Serena Williams still has a tennis coach.

If you want to keep writing books, you need to keep reading books:

  • on the craft of writing
  • in your genre
  • outside your genre

Basically, you need to read a lot of books.

You never grow out of needing a coach.

Hustle Factor #2 Doing

Writing requires hard work. If you expect your second book to take less work than your first book, don’t be surprised if it sees less success too.

Sometimes, after several books, authors start to take shortcuts in their writing process or in their marketing. These shortcuts can undermine the success of their future books.

Marketing also takes hard work. You owe it to your book to do the work to get it out to the world.

This doesn’t mean you should do everything or waste a lot of time on social media. (Facebook stopped working for authors in early 2018, not that it worked great before that).

A lot of authors are willing to do marketing work, but are not willing to study marketing to see what works. Don’t be that kind of author.

This is why I host the Novel Marketing Podcast. Every week we talk about what works and what doesn’t.

Hustle Factor #3 Reviewing

According to the book Talent is Overrated (affiliate link) it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a master of something. So what is the difference between practice and deliberate practice?

  • Clear goal (I want to be able to write 5000 words a day or less than ten editor corrections per page)
  • Measurement (How many words did I write yesterday, how many corrections did I get on my last chapter?)
  • Mentorship (An editor, agent or coach. It is hard to read the label when you are standing inside the bottle)

Hustle Factor #4 Resting

It may sound counter-intuitive, but the key to hustle is rest.

Resting sharpens mind giving you a maximum return on energy. Without rest, we can turn into writing zombies doing nothing but the bare minimum and most urgent tasks. If your writing feels like whacking away at a tree with a dull ax, you may need more rest.

Rest is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately with a newborn in a bassinet in my bedroom.

Three kinds of rest in the Bible:

  • Daily Rest. Sleeping at night.
  • Weekly Rest (Sabbath)
  • Sabbatical Rest (1 year in seven no farming)

I have an author friend who is about to take a year off from writing. This author has been incredibly successful but needs time to recharge the writing batteries. I anticipate this will lead to unprecedented success later on.

For athletes, the kind of rest they get is as important as the kind of workouts they do.

Sponsor: Christian Writers Institute

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Website: www.ChristianWritersInstitute.com

The post 003 – How to Find Your Hustle appeared first on Christian Publishing Show.

13 Responses to 003 – How to Find Your Hustle

  1. Shirlee Abbott November 20, 2018 at 4:53 am #

    I worked with someone who lacked a teachable spirit. The most mild of suggestions met with her disdain, and others were always to blame for her failures. I know an know-it-all who truly knows a lot. But in his eyes, the only right way is his way.

    “The great ones never stop improving.”

    Thank you, Thomas, for being one of the great ones–and for sharing your great wisdom.

  2. Lori November 20, 2018 at 5:08 am #

    Help! When I click on Listen Here, I get redirected back to the blog post. What am I doing wrong?

    • Thomas Umstattd, Jr. November 20, 2018 at 7:09 am #

      It should be fixed now.

  3. Judith Robl November 20, 2018 at 5:57 am #

    Thomas, thank you for your notes. I am simply not an auditory learner. And in my house, there is literally neither time nor place for me to listen to podcasts. But your notes here are instructive. I am so grateful that you are sharing them. You have said many things I need to hear.

    I think the most critical thing every good writer needs is a teachable spirit. If you have that, you can learn anything. If I have a teachable spirit, I will learn to do more reading, to schedule rest into my time, to spend time polishing my craft, and reviewing the results of my efforts in order to improve.

    Thank you for thinking of those of us who learn differently.

  4. Beth November 20, 2018 at 7:06 am #

    Great advice!

  5. Rebekah Love Dorris November 20, 2018 at 8:09 am #

    I second Judith. I love podcasts, but they require a certain habit that busy seasons can crowd out. Since I *am* in the habit of reading this blog, these notes are much appreciated.

    Speaking of busy seasons, it’s increasingly apparent that this isn’t the season for me to write. As a great writer told me, now is the time to “fill the well” of my experiences as a mother rather than stress over blog stats.

    When my eyes landed on the word “Sabbatical,” all the Tetris boxes aligned. Of course! That’s why this season of not writing feels so right. It’s necessary rest. Although this Sabbatical may have to last longer than a year. God knows and will guide.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to do both the podcast and the notes. The podcast will stay and be discovered and grow, but the notes are so helpful now. God bless!

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser November 20, 2018 at 8:15 am #

    Like Judith, I am also grateful for the notes. Listening to a podcast here just isn’t on.

    There may be one more hustle factor…that of simply staying put and keeping your focus and sense of purpose when the storm overwhelms all that you have and are.

    Two kinds of cancer (and especially physical setbacks of the last weeks) have made new writing projects unthinkable, and finishing my WIPs very doubtful; keeping up my blog is about all I can do.

    But no matter; my mission is fulfilled when I can encourage others up a path I can no longer walk, and my joy in their ascent can never be dimmed.

  7. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D November 20, 2018 at 10:06 am #

    Thanks for the great insight, Thomas!

  8. Michael Torres November 20, 2018 at 10:33 am #

    Solid, Thomas. Solid.

  9. Joyce Ellis November 20, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    I’m sorry for being nitpicky, but you lost me with the misspelling of Canaan as Canon.

  10. Beth Olsson February 15, 2019 at 6:38 am #

    This is probably the one podcast I wish I’d heard when I started to get serious about writing years ago! I’ll be sure to refer back to it. As a pregnant mom of two toddlers what I really want to know–can you share the brand of mattress pad?

    • Thomas Umstattd February 15, 2019 at 11:51 am #

      It was the Linenspa 2 Inch Gel Swirl Memory Foam Topper https://amzn.to/2IdEGXa. In hindsight, we should have gotten the 1-inch topper, two inches turned out to be too soft for my wife long term.

      • Beth Olsson February 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm #

        Good to know. Thanks! I really have appreciated this podcast. Wonderful wisdom and insight, and your connection between writing, the word of God and relationship with Jesus is inspiring. Hope the baby is sleeping better for you guys.

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