A former at risk foster kid, Josh Shipp is now known for his renowned TV series, breakthrough work with teens, for being listed on Ink Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list, and for being the bestselling author of “The Teen’s Guide to World Domination.” In his interview with Chandler Bolt during the 2016 Self-Publishing Success Summit, Josh discusses many of the lessons he learned, as well as some advice that could dramatically impact the life of a writer. Some of his advice provides insight on how to write a timeless book that sells 500,000 copies and how you can use that book to grow your business.
It’s easy to feel incompetent as a beginning author (or even as a well-known author!), but Josh’s story goes to show anyone can become an author. After countless hours of counseling, as well as being kicked out of multiple foster homes, Josh began speaking as a teenager. Wanting to find a healthy medium between doing work that matters and having a good business he began writing.
Check out this short video clip from the Self-Publishing Success Summit:
How can a speaker turn into a writer? And how can that writer write a timeless book that sells more than 500,000 copies? The answer is simpler than you think. It might be difficult to change someone’s life through a one-hour speech, but it is possible to impact him or her through a phrase or few sentences that spark an epiphany. This strategy is one Josh uses when writing his books. Creating tidbits that stick in readers’ minds is a big part of the writing process, and a tactic that can be borrowed from speaking.
Also part of Josh’s writing career is his desire to elicit feedback from his readers. Creating a focus group using three groups of people (Twitter followers, personal friends, and random people), Josh then sends a portion of his book out to the group via a Google doc and asks for their feedback on how the book could be 10% better.
How Did He Do It?
There is one catch to his focus group: the group must consist of those who make up his target audience. Using outside friends or strangers who do not make up his audience would defeat the point of feedback. Josh desires to receive feedback on how to make his book better for his target audience, not random people. Getting advice from those who do not make up your target audience is counterintuitive as making the book more applicable to target readers is the goal.
In addition, it is important to get advice from as many points of view as possible to ensure clear and understandable content. As the author, Josh understands what he is trying to say. After all, he is the one who spends hours crafting his sentences, writing, and editing. His readers do not have his background with the content. Getting his reader’s feedback on what could be explained more efficiently is a big part of Josh’s writing process and ensures quality material.
Josh did not start as a bestselling author. He did not start as a man renowned for a documentary TV series. He started as an at-risk foster kid. But look what he has achieved with a few simple tips. With Josh’s story in mind, take encouragement. You, too, can become an author and write content that matters. You don’t need to shoot for changing a life but simply work to spark an epiphany in a reader’s life. You, too, can ask for feedback from your target audience. You, too, can become an author.
In the difficult times remember what Josh says: “Don’t think there’s something broken in you and that it’s only difficult for you.” Anyone who has accomplished something significant has at some point viewed himself as incompetent. This is natural because failure is part of the process. Yes, there is prestige in writing a book, and yes, there is a sense of accomplishment. As there should be! But in hard times, when the words don’t seem to be coming and the epiphanies seem lost, remember Josh’s words. “The icky period is the price tag.” Success is born of failure, and writers realize failure is always the precursor to success. Embrace the icky so that in the end you can embrace the success.