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The Published Author Podcast

MIRIAM SCHULMAN FOUND HER BOOK NICHE BY READING BAD BOOK REVIEWS ON AMAZON

The devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 1993 and 2001 were traumatic for thousands of people. 

They also changed many people’s lives. Some left New York City, never to return. Some left the corporate world.

Today’s guest, Miriam Schulman, was one such woman. She tells Published Author Podcast host Josh Steimle that she was always a closet artist, but was afraid of not being able to make a living if she chose that path. Instead, she worked with a successful hedge fund.

However, when the terrorism came to US soil, Miriam—along with many others—had a wake up call. In 2001 she crossed a threshold of no return.  

LEARNING HOW TO MAKE MONEY FROM CREATIVITY

Miriam took a job teaching pilates at a gym and was also responsible for selling fitness packages. This was the perfect opportunity to study their sales model and emulate it with her own business.

She soon set up as an artist launching The Inspiration Place, and began selling classes. They included teaching people how to paint, including portraits. She also took commissions.

This transition wasn’t easy. Miriam is a mother and had to find creative ways of balancing her business with raising children. But today, she has a highly successful business with classes, clients, and her own podcast, The Inspiration Place. 

IF PEOPLE KEEP ASKING YOU QUESTIONS, WRITE A BOOK!

Like many other successful entrepreneurs, Miriam had lots of people asking questions about how she ran her classes and other aspects of her business, and over time, the idea for her book arose.

She realized that by writing a book she would be able to connect directly with people just like her: moms (and dads) who are raising children but want to create a successful business that feels rewarding and helps others, too. Her forthcoming book will be published by Harper Collins in 2022.

BAD BOOK REVIEWS ON AMAZON CAN HELP YOU CREATE A GREAT BOOK

One of the major things an author must accomplish is producing a book with a unique message. This doesn’t mean that the whole book’s idea must be unique or that you can’t attribute content to other writers or quote people. But the core focus or ‘Why’ behind your book should be unique.

Creatives Jeff Goins and Lisa Congdon have both written books on running successful creative ventures. 

But, points out Miriam, neither one of them is a mother of children. “And that's a huge part of my audience . . . women who have children, who are being given the message that you can't be an artist and a mother.

“So I felt that that was a big distinguisher between my message and the message of other authors. It's just a different positioning. There were also other books where the mindset and the why was there, but they didn't really then go into the how to.”

Amazon proved to be a big help here. Specifically, it was reading poor reviews of similar books that told Miriam what her book should and shouldn’t contain. 

“I spent a lot of time looking at the negative Amazon reviews because that really gave me clues into what I was going to say to be different, which didn't mean I was going to bash the other authors because . . . that would be a huge turnoff,” explains Miriam. “But it really helped me create the language and describe . . . how to do it.”

WHEN YOU TELL YOURSELF IT’S NOT WORKING, STOP LISTENING

Like most creative folks, Miriam knows only too well the temptations of negative self-talk. She’s currently in the process of writing her book and knows it can be too easy to believe that voice in your head that says your creative project won’t work or your efforts are doomed to fail. 

She has a special message for Published Author listeners: “We're always going to have that fear of something going wrong and not making it. Our brains have evolved to be wary of fear. Our brains want to keep us safe. Our brains are going to come up with all kinds of reasons why something isn't going to work. I don't call these excuses. I call them doubts.”

She also cautions that the smarter you are, the more doubts you’ll throw in your own path. 

“They feel real to you. So be careful of the stories you're telling yourself,” Miriam cautions. “Those stories that you're making up in your mind, why it's not a good time to start, why you're not ready yet, why something won't work for you.”

It definitely is your time, she says, “And you're going to do it anyway. And you're ready for this step.”

In this episode Miriam also talks about how to find the right agent for your book and her writing schedule.

Learn more: If you appreciated this episode, listen to:

Finding The Right Agent And Getting The Best Deal With a Publisher

And:

Overcome Imposter Syndrome To Finish Your Book

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ABOUT THE HOST

The Published Author Podcast is hosted by Josh Steimle, founder of Published Author. Josh is a book author himself and his article writing has been featured in over two dozen publications including Time, Forbes, Fortune, Mashable, and TechCrunch. He's a TEDx speaker, the founder of the global marketing agency MWI, a skater, father, and husband, and lives on a horse farm in Boston. Learn more at JoshSteimle.com.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Josh Steimle:

Today my guest is Miriam Schulman. Miriam is an artist and founder of The Inspiration Place where she helps other artists learn how to profit from their passion. Through her online classes, business coaching programs and podcast, Miriam has helped thousands of artists develop their skill sets and create more time and freedom to do what they love. Miriam's artwork has been featured on NBC's Parenthood and the Amazon series Hunters with Al Pacino. Her forthcoming book on how to make it as an artist is scheduled to be released in 2023 by HarperCollins Leadership. Miriam, welcome to the show.

Miriam Schulman:

Thanks for having me, Josh.

Josh Steimle:

It's so great to talk to a fellow artist. I actually wanted to be an artist. I went to a year of art school, and then I switched over into business. So I kind of took the opposite career track of you – you started out in business, right?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, I always wanted to be an artist, but I was raised by a Jewish mother who was like, you're either a doctor, a lawyer or a disappointment. And being that I actually came from a single parent household, I didn't feel that I had the luxury to not make it. And I had, as many people do, I had the fear of not being able to make a living, which is why I did take the practical route ahead. I did study art in college, just wasn't my fault. I didn't go to art school, and I didn't go all in with that until much later, which is I think we're talking about today.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah [inaudible 00:01:38] you're a closet artist all along though.

Miriam Schulman:

Always.

Josh Steimle:

So you went to Dartmouth, you went to MIT, you ended up working for a hedge fund, is that right?

Miriam Schulman:

That's right. And it's a pretty famous hedge fund that I worked for, there's been several books about it. So yeah, it's been quite the ride.

Josh Steimle:

And so, tell us about the career change that happened during or after 9/11 after those attacks.

Miriam Schulman:

Well, Josh, it really began, my disappointment or disillusion, or however you want to tell the story, [inaudible 00:02:12] chapter two of the book – so it really began in ‘93, because I was working during the bombing of the World Trade Center in ‘93. And during that time, we were not told that it was a terrorist attack, we thought it was a [inaudible 00:02:31] failure, and I happened to be in the cafeteria when the power went out. And my friend and I, we marched up, 37 flights of stairs to return to our desks, where we saw everybody in our office who didn't know what was going on, working. And outside the window, we could see the North Tower, we could see the smoke coming out of it. So this was not 9/11, this was ‘93, the first terrorist attack. So flash forward or move forward to when 9/11 happened, it was like PTSD, I just had this flashback of when I was working in the Trade Center, and being in that culture of you work, even if there's a terrorist attack going on next door. And I was not actually working at that time. I was taking, what I thought was going to be a temporary maternity leave, a temporary break. But I knew that I couldn't go back, because I knew that that culture would have killed me, that if I had been working during 9/11, I would have been one of those people in the second tower who didn't evacuate. It's just by the grace of God that I was not there at that time, that I was not part of that world, and it could have been me so easily. So that was my wakeup call that I was not going to return to that world.

Josh Steimle:

So you just said, forget it, I’m out of here. And how was, I mean, did you have a plan? Did you have an exit plan, or was it just, I’m done with this, I’ll figure it out?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, I actually had exited a year prior. So my hedge fund, it was a pretty famous hedge fund, blew up – it blew up the financial world in ‘98, and I was part of that world as well. So that was a pretty cataclysmic event that our hedge fund lost billions of dollars, and I was kept on for some time there. But every day, I was going into work and kind of pretending to work because my job, really what I was doing had been eliminated, like, my functionality at the firm had been eliminated. And it was so obvious to me how little meaning I had, how my life lacked meaning, and it lacked purpose. And so, I did exit actually a year prior to 9/11, that was the temporary maternity leave I thought I was taking that, okay, well, I could come back if I figure it out. And it's like the hero's journey where you take that step forward, and then maybe the hero's going to want to come back, but that event happens where you cross the threshold, and you know you can't go back. So 9/11 really was the crossing of the threshold moment for me where, okay, I know I can't go back now, this is not going to be my story anymore.

Josh Steimle:

Got it. So then how did this transition into taking art as the thing that you're going to focus on?

Miriam Schulman:

Josh, it's a great question, and people wish – I wish I could tell my story like 9/11 happened, and then I became an artist. And actually that is the short version of the story, but there were some steps in between. So I started painting on the side, I wasn't convinced yet that that would be my full time living. And I started teaching Pilates for a gym, and they wanted me to sell personal training packages, and they were giving me all kinds of training on how to make sales. So it was then, I was like, oh, wait a minute, I can use exactly what they're teaching me here to sell Pilates packages, to sell my portraits, to sell my commissions, to sell my art. And that's when things took off. So that was kind of the other aha moment, like, I was given this magical sword, like, okay, here's how you make sales.

Josh Steimle:

Got it. And so then it worked out evidently, tell us a little bit more about that – how you made it work? How did it work out? Were there some challenges along the way?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, I was too stupid or naive to think it was going to be challenging. I just kept doing it, and if things didn't work, I tweaked and kept figuring things out. So I did very well selling portraits and doing commissions, selling my art online, and then eventually online classes. And after some time, people started asking me to show them how I did it, and that's how my coaching practice then started to take off and flourish as well. So it wasn't all though rainbows and daisies the whole time, I definitely earned my stripes learning along the way, as we all do, when we're building anything. And don't you agree, when you're building anything, there's going to be some challenges?

Josh Steimle:

For sure. So fast forward to today, The Inspiration Place, what does that empire look like – you've got a podcast, you've got the book coming out, you've got clients, tell us a little bit more about what it looks like today.

Miriam Schulman:

So my online class site is The Inspiration Place, and my podcast is also The Inspiration Place, and it's how I teach other artists. So The Inspiration Place, first and foremost, it was to teach people my art technique, so how to paint, how to paint portraits, how to do the watercolors that I was doing. And now, that's also where I teach people how to make a business out of their art.

Josh Steimle:

And how long has it been that you're teaching people how to make a business out of their art – when did you fully transition into that being the focus?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, it's not my full focus, I still am fairly evenly balanced between I do have an art practice, and I do teach people how to paint with those online art classes, I would say, right now though, the coaching practice is about a third to a half of my revenue comes from coaching. And that started around two years ago, I had people who were coming to me, first for one on one help; and then I saw that people were all coming with the same sorts of problems that it didn't make sense to me for everyone to get one on one coaching, which is why I built a group program.

Josh Steimle:

Got it. And tell us how did your art end up in Parenthood and Hunters, I mean, how did you get your art on TV? That's pretty awesome.

Miriam Schulman:

Oh, thank you. So basically, people who are doing set designs, they are on the lookout on the internet for types of art. So for Parenthood, I think there was a character who had Asperger's who was obsessed with bugs, and I had a mosquito painting that they just thought was perfect for it. Of course, I watched an entire season before I spotted my painting, like – it's a good show. I don't know if I would have watched the whole season if I wasn't looking for my painting. And for Amazon, the Hunters, something similar, they wanted some Judaica for one of the set designs, and I happened to have a painting that fit that for them.

Josh Steimle:

That's a lot of fun. So let's get to the book then. So what was the inspiration for the book to say, I've got to write this book, I’ve got to put some of my material in a book?

Miriam Schulman:

That's a really great question. So people have been asking me, you know, they've been asking me for years, do you have a book on this, can I find your book in stores. I had the little eBook lead magnets. And so, people were like, do you have an actual book on this. And it's something that I think so many people, Josh, and you probably have the statistic at your fingertips more than I, but I heard the other day, it's something like Americans, something crazy, like 70 or 80 or 90% feel they have a book inside of them – do you know that that's...

Josh Steimle:

Yeah, I don't know what the actual statistic is, I think it's probably closer to like 97% or something. But yeah, everybody feels like they could write a book. Right?

Miriam Schulman:

Right. So I have a story inside of me, and I made it a goal, well, last year, I made it a goal to write the book. And I didn't finish the book last year, and I decided that was a terrible goal. So this year, I changed the goal, and 2021, I decided my goal was to get a publishing contract, and that was a much better goal for me.

Josh Steimle:

So what was your first step on that, because that's tough work too, that's maybe harder than writing the book.

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah. So the first step for that, of course, is to get a proposal together. And there's a lot of trauma around writing the proposal, I'm not going to lie. But I knew that if I were to go that route, then I only had to get what I was working on good enough to get me to the next step. So the proposal only had to be good enough to get me an agent. And then the proposal only had to be good enough to get a publisher. And now, it's like, I’m still with the same mind frame, everything just has to be good enough, so I can go to the next step, or, I’m going to get help along the way. So that was my attitude towards getting the agent and, ultimately, the contract to write the book.

Josh Steimle:

Okay. So how did you write the proposal because most people out there, first-time authors, they don't even know what a book proposal is, or that you have to write one, or that you have to write it to get the agent. So how did you educate yourself about writing this book proposal and get it done?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, I think part of it is because I am surrounding myself with people who are doing similar things, which does a few things for me, one, it creates the possibility in my mind when you surround yourself with people who, it's like the Jim Rohn quote, you become the average of who you spend the most time with. But first and foremost is making that possibility real in my mind. You see other people doing it who I feel are just like me, so therefore this possibility becomes real. But then also being part of those conversations, so where they're saying, oh, I took this class, or, somebody had just said, well, the agent helps you at the proposal, it only has to be good enough for that, and they will help you rewrite it. So that helped too. And I took a course which I’m not going to name the course, because I don't feel that helped me as much writing it, but I threw money at the problem. And eventually, I just had to get somebody to sit on me every Monday, let's write the book proposal. That's ultimately how I did get it done.

Josh Steimle:

Helps to have that accountability.

Miriam Schulman:

Oh yes.

Josh Steimle:

So then how did you go about pitching agents or how did you get connected with the agent you eventually chose?

Miriam Schulman:

Okay, great question. So inside this Facebook group, back in 2020, there were two women discussing their book proposal process. And so much as, I will introduce you to my agent. And, of course, I go onto Publishers Marketplace, I said, who is her agent and I write that down. And then the friend got her book deal two months later. So it's like, okay, who's that agent, same one, wrote it down. And that became my first choice for my agent, and that is actually the agent I got. Now, that makes it sound like very charmed life, but that truly was what I thought, okay, she is my number one choice, but I went to my bookshelf, I pulled out all the books I like to read and I said, looked in the acknowledgments and made a list of agents that way. So that was my first round of who I was going to pitch for the book, and after that, I had nothing. So I did get the yes for my first choice, I did get a lot of noes for other people.

Josh Steimle:

Got it. So you weren't just depending on getting that one agent. You had a backup plan that you were already executing there.

Miriam Schulman:

I had no idea it was going to be that agent too. She was one of my top choices. I wouldn't say she was my only one, but I did feel like this was the right person for me, because she helped people who I considered like me, not the Elizabeth Gilberts of the world, but people who have some sort of online business and influence and a presence. So I figured, I was modeling myself after what their success path looked like. And there were a few others, some of those few others said no. If I hadn't gotten that yes from Michelle when I did – I got a lot of noes, and my next yes happened many months later, I didn't withdraw the submission, because I assumed that these people were, you know, there's that thing they say on their website, if you don't hear from us in a month, we're not interested. So a couple of months later, I got this other person who said, oh, I’d like to represent you. I was like, okay, too late. But if I didn't get that first yes, I was getting a lot of rejections, and I wouldn't have known, let's pretend I didn't submit to Michelle, like, if I wasn't in this Facebook group, I might have just gotten all those noes for months and months before I heard a yes. That could have been the story also.

Josh Steimle:

That's true. That's interesting. And it sounds like you narrow down the scope of who you're pitching, or, at least with Michelle, your agent, that you went with, you had some reason to believe that she might be a fit for you. Whereas a lot of people out there, they say, well, I'm going to go get a literary agent, and then they just send their proposal to anybody and everybody without thinking like, is this the type of agent or this the agent that represents the type of book that I want to pitch or that I want to write. Because not every agent works with every type of author, right?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, and the other things that were happening too, there were other agents that said, I like what you're doing, but I already represent somebody very similar to you. So that could have been the story as well, so if someone's listening to what I’m saying, find somebody who represents people like you, it's still got to be like you but different.

Josh Steimle:

Right. And the point being, just because an agent rejects your book, doesn't mean it's not a good book, it could be all sorts of different reasons. Right?

Miriam Schulman:

That's true. Although, I feel that also the book proposal evolved in that rejection process. A lot of people say, hey, it's not a fit, and they don't give you a reason, and you can tell when they're giving you just a boilerplate, their Canned Gmail Response or whatever it is. But there was one agent who took the time to actually let me know why she was passing, and that was some of the most valuable advice I got that I was able to incorporate into one of my revisions, which made the proposal successful.

Josh Steimle:

Can you tell us what that was, what that feedback was that was so helpful?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah. So Michelle, who did ultimately represent me, she didn't actually give me a yes, at first. She said that I’m interested, but – so that I’m interested but could have turned into a no. And she gave me some specific advice. And then this other agent said to me, I like your idea, but you save the prescriptive content for the end or something like that, of that nature, you know, I wish you hadn't saved it all for the end. And it [inaudible 00:18:18] Michelle's advice, but it resonated in a different way with me, like, Michelle was also saying be more prescriptive. But the second agent saying you saved it for the end, somehow it clicked what I needed to really change to make the proposal work. So I had taken Michelle's initial feedback, this other agent's feedback, and that's what I incorporated into my proposal that I resubmitted to Michelle.

Josh Steimle:

Got you. So Michelle then took it on, and then began the whole process of pitching for publishers. Can you tell us about that process?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, so she was very clear, she was more clear than I was, what kind of book this was, because I do a lot of mindset with my artists, I wasn't sure if this was a book that was going to go to – I'm thinking of the publishers, but now I’m blanking out – there are certain publishers that work a lot with art books and creativity books. So I wasn't sure if that was the route – I wasn't sure if this was more like a self-help type of book, because there's so much mindset in there. And Michelle was very clear that this was a business book, she was very clear about that vision. So she made her list of top choices where she wanted to pitch me and we got a lot of early interest from HarperCollins who ultimately bought the book.

Josh Steimle:

And when you say this is a business book, it's still an art book, I assume it fits in with The Inspiration Place and what you do. Can you tell us a little bit more about what's in the book and the content and how it's arranged?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah. Well, it's a book on how to make a business out of your creativity.

Josh Steimle:

And so is it limited to visual arts, or is it broader than that?

Miriam Schulman:

It is broader than that. That was also part of the challenge, when selling the proposal, was really showing to both the agent, because the agent had this question as well, the agent and the publisher, what the market was. And I did a lot of research to show what's the size of the [inaudible 00:20:28] market, which, by the way, grew enormously during the pandemic, as you can guess why.

Josh Steimle:

That worked in your favor.

Miriam Schulman:

Totally. So that was number one. But the other thing I was looking at, I was really thinking outside the box, how can I show them how large this market is because my market isn't just people who are professional artists, who are in galleries and museums and that really isn't my ideal reader. My ideal reader is the dreamer, is the woman who's shopping at Michaels, who's thinking about quitting her job and turning her creativity into something that is more sustainable. So I looked at, look at what the size of that market is, look at the size of the hobby market, look at the billions of dollars people spend at Michaels every year, that's the market. So that market research that I handed to the publisher on a silver platter that really helped sell the book.

Josh Steimle:

Got you. Interesting. Now, do you have any competition in this space? Are there other people who have written similar books that you had to explain why yours was different, or was it a wide open ocean of opportunity?

Miriam Schulman:

Oh no, of course. So that's always the challenge for authors too, and that's what I did need help with, like, looking what the comps were. So Lisa Condon is an artist in my space, who has written books on business books about art. And then the other ones who have, like Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don't Starve, would be a similar book, and something else, and something else. So there's a few things there, I have to show how my voice is different, how my point of view is different, and how my message is different. So it's all those things.

Josh Steimle:

And how did you do that – how did you get that across to the publisher that that, hey I’m different, here's how I’m different, can you give us some specifics about that?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, sure. I mean, both of those authors, I named Jeff Goins, and Lisa Condon, neither one of them is a mother with children. And that's a huge part of my audience are women who have children, who are being given the message that you can't be an artist and a mother. So I felt that that was a big distinguisher between my message and the message of other authors. It's just like a different positioning. There were also other books where the mindset and the why was there, but it didn't really then go into the how-to. So exactly like what that agent who I didn't work with said to me, oh, you saved the prescriptive material for the end. When I was looking at comps, one place, Josh, that I spent a lot of time was looking at the negative Amazon reviews, because that really gave me clues into how what I was going to say was going to be different, which didn't mean I was going to bash the other authors because, I mean, if Michelle was pitching me to their publisher, that would be a huge turnoff, but really helped me create the language and describe, well, this book over here gives the inspiration, but my book really gives the how to do it.

Josh Steimle:

That is a great takeaway right there. If people get nothing else from this episode, just that idea of reading the negative reviews to find the holes or the opportunities, that's a great tip right there.

Miriam Schulman:

Well, nobody knew how to do that. I thought that was obvious to me, like, okay, just see what people [inaudible 00:24:12] are saying about this book, and then you'll figure it out what you need to do differently.

Josh Steimle:

Well, I love reading the negative reviews. Those are the fun reviews to read, because people are actually saying what they think. That's not that interesting to read, oh this is a great book, this is so good, it's so helpful. But man, when people tear something apart, you're like, wow, this is really interesting stuff here.

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, I also read negative podcast reviews. That's one of my, like, instead of Netflix, like, okay, what do they have to say, even Brene Brown has negative reviews.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah, everybody's got him. So tell us how that pitch ended up being secured, I mean, HarperCollins took it – what was that process like? Was it an immediate, hey, we want this, here's an offer? What did that process look like of going through and finalizing the deal?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, it was, actually, we want this. So the first message I got was from my agent who said, oh, I just sent off the first batch, and I already heard back from HarperCollins, they want to set up a meeting. So again, it sounds like there was so – when you describe it that way, it sounds like, oh, and this happened, and this happened, it's magical. I think it's the same thing without the agent. We just happened to be in alignment, because Michelle, my agent, was my only yes – well, that was one month later, but we won't count that for now. And this was also my only, yeah, so it wasn't like five people said, we want to set up meetings. She said that she wanted to set up a meeting. So they set up a meeting and during the meeting, the editor says, well, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but we're making an offer.

Josh Steimle:

That's kind of nice to hear, right?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, it was. And then, I didn't know what to do. My agent was so worried I was going to screw things up. I said, well, should I send a thank you note. He's like, no, we don't want them to think we're that interested. I was like, okay.

Josh Steimle:

So what were some of the other things that your agent did to navigate that process and make sure that that deal came to fruition?

Miriam Schulman:

She did all the negotiating for me, so she gave me feedback – the only thing that did happen was we did have an initial offer. And when she told me the number, I was like, oh, they definitely will go 10,000 higher, ask for more. So that was the only input that I really gave her on that. But she may have come to that conclusion on her own. I don't know if I can take credit for that. But she took care of all of it.

Josh Steimle:

That's great. So then, now, we're recording this in 2021, the book is scheduled to come out in 2023, what happens – no?

Miriam Schulman:

No, I did give that information to you, because that's what I was told in my initial, what's it's called deal memo?

Josh Steimle:

Mm-hmm.

Miriam Schulman:

Okay, [inaudible 00:27:09] all the lingo, like, two months you learn it. Okay. So no, it's actually coming out in 2022.

Josh Steimle:

Okay, 2022. Do you have a month for that?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, October.

Josh Steimle:

October, okay. So a little over a year, it's going to come out. So you're working on writing the book at this moment, right? Can you tell us where you're at in that stage in the process?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, this is the messy middle for sure. This is the messy middle. So I've gotten two chapters done in addition to the ones I submitted for the sample chapters. So I guess, that puts me a quarter of the way through, but I am enjoying the process more than the proposal writing process, that's the good news. But there's definitely more drama coming up for me.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah. Tell us about that. What are some of the challenges you're facing?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, anytime that we're beginners, and I think, Josh, this is more true. Again, I'm going to quote a study that I don't have the numbers in front of me, but this is more true for women than it is for men that the imposter syndrome kicks in, like, oh wait, they're going to discover, I don't really know what I'm doing, I have to give them money back. So the only thing I found that's worked for me, Josh, is that I have, on my calendar, seven to nine, and it's ass in the chair, ass in the chair from seven to nine, Monday through Friday, and the willingness – and this is something that Eric Maisel, who is a creativity coach, taught me – he's not my coach, but he's been a guest on my podcast, that not only do I have to be willing to write a shitty first book – I just blew my joke by giving the punch line – not only do I have to be willing to write the shitty first draft, but I have to be willing to write the shitty first book. And I keep coming back to that advice that, not that it's going to be shitty – I forgot to ask you, is explicit words okay on your podcast?

Josh Steimle:

You can say whatever you want, I can't guarantee it will all make it in, but you can say whatever you want.

Miriam Schulman:

You are going to bleep it all out. So bleep, bleep, okay. So this is my first book and I have to allow that this book is my first book and it's like even Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, it's a good book, but Braving the Wilderness is so much bad. So I don't have to start off with my first book at somebody else's ending. I'm at my beginning.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah, I love that, because there is that feeling when you're a first time author, like, oh if I mess this up, that's it, I can never write another book again.

Miriam Schulman:

Right.

Josh Steimle:

But then I meet people who have written 30 books, and I think, wait a second, what's to stop me from practicing on the first five books, and then say, number six is really the big one. Because some of these people, they write 20 books, and then it's number 21 that really takes them into celebrity status. So, with your book, the process that you said you have this routine seven to nine, every morning, you're in the chair, you're writing, what about the process, outlining, structuring the book, how did you work through that? How do you do think about that, like, what's your process for getting through the book and mapping it out?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, that's what the book proposal does. So I have a book proposal, and we had the kickoff meeting with the agent, and actually what surprised me is, I thought, like, I was going to get a little more help from the editor along the way, and they're like, come back to us in December when you're done. Like, what? What? No one's going to supervise me. So, each chapter, what I do is I go back to the book proposal and I look at what my chapter summary was. So the chapter summary, I see that is that's the promise of what that chapter is going to be about. And I just look at – am I fulfilling the promise – what I promised HarperCollins I would write for chapter two – am I fulfilling that promise? So the title of that chapter can change. To me, that's fine, as long as I'm fulfilling the promise of what I said the chapter would be.

Josh Steimle:

Got you. And have you been restructuring anything along the way? Have you been getting into it and saying, oh, I know I put this in the book proposal, but now I want to change everything – have you faced any of that, or are you pretty solid sticking to what was in the proposal?

Miriam Schulman:

I think I'm too early in the process to say that there's going to be extensive renovation, but I have changed, like I said, I have changed the titles of the first two chapters already. And some of the content has changed, because, as you know, it took so long, I mean, I know it sounds like it happened fast; but I secured my agent in March, and by Easter, we sent out the proposal; so from Easter to now, that's a lot of time, especially during a pandemic, and some of my ideas have changed. So there's ideas, not that I’ve done one [inaudible 00:32:38] or anything, it's just like I’ve had new ideas, concepts that I’ve introduced on my podcast; and like, this is such a great concept, I'm putting this in chapter one; this is such a great concept, I’m putting this in chapter two. So the promise stays the same, but some of the examples, some of the thought leadership work that I'm doing in the books has evolved since I've written the proposal. But having read the proposal, you wouldn't know what I had in mind for that chapter versus what I’m putting in now, if that makes sense.

Josh Steimle:

Got you. Now, you mentioned your podcast. Tell us a little bit more. How has the podcast helped you with the book? I mean, you just mentioned an example or two there, but I think this is a great point that hosting this podcast myself, I'm already getting feedback from people saying you've got to turn all these interviews into a book, there's so much great content here. I’m like, I know, this would be great to share all this in book form. Does that happen to you a lot with your podcast where you're interviewing a guest, and you think, ooh, this story they're telling or this thing they're mentioning, I’ve got to put that in my book, that's a great quote, or, that's a great story?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, what I've been doing since I’ve been on this book journey is testing material, kind of like a comedian does, like testing material out on the podcasts and seeing if it resonates with my audience. In 2020, when I first set off to, oh I’m going to write a book this year, I thought all I had to do was take 14 of my episodes and transcribe them, and that's my book – that's not my book. That's like basically scratching the surface. So there's so much – I feel like when I’m putting together this book, it's more like doing a puzzle, where I’m pulling a piece that may have appeared in one podcast, an interview that got shared in a different episode, a book or a movie that I read, a book I read or a movie I watched that [inaudible 00:34:43] that pulled in from experience. So I’m pulling in disparate elements, and kind of like here's the eggs, here's the flour, now I'm making a loaf of bread; here's the eggs, here's the flour, but now it's a cake. So it's pulling in different pieces and doing that alchemy to turn it into something completely different. And Josh, if you've ever tried to do this, if you ever try to take in any of your episodes and put it into written form, the medium is so different, it really isn't – if you're really starting from scratch, like the ideas are there in the podcast, but the structure and the format is so different, it's like poetry versus a song versus the Odyssey. They're very different.

Josh Steimle:

I love that idea though of testing material out kind of like a comedian, there is a lot to that. So with the book structure, you mentioned, before we started recording, you talked about how part of your story was going into chapter two – how much of yourself and your story and your experiences are you putting in this book? Some people are afraid to share that type of stuff, so that's why I’m curious to know.

Miriam Schulman:

That's such a great question, and that was a lot of the advice I had gotten early on. So when I was struggling with my proposal last year, both the book and towards the end of the fall, I started working on a proposal is it really resembled more cringey memoir than it did a how to sell your art book. And that was shaped from getting feedback from agents, like I shared before, they want more prescriptive material that I use. So now my story, in most chapters, they are just examples and antidotes to create a point. The only chapter that feels truly like my story is going to be chapter two, and I purposely put that as the second chapter, not the first, because this is not a book about me, this is a book about my reader, and I want my reader to see themselves in my story. But this book is not about me, it's for them, they are the hero of the story, I am the guide in the story, I am not the hero of the story.

Josh Steimle:

Well put. So backing up a little bit, you decided you wanted to go get a book deal, have an agent, have a publisher – did you ever seriously consider self-publishing the book, and, if so, why did you decide against that in favor of traditional publishing?

Miriam Schulman:

That's a great question. So when I made my goal 2021 to get a book publishing contract, I thought, okay, I'm going to give myself a certain amount of time to secure an agent and get a book deal; should that fall through, I’m writing a book, no matter what. But it didn't. My incentives for going this way is I really wanted the collaboration, I really believe that my book will be a better book because of this collaboration. Had I just written a book in 2020 on my own, it would have been transcriptions of 14 podcast episodes. This really what the book has now become has evolved a lot or, like I said before, the cringey memoir. So now this is not a book about me, it's not a book that just serves me and my ego, this is a book that's in service to other people.

Josh Steimle:

Got you. So you mentioned, speaking of the collaboration, you mentioned that you're getting a little bit less collaboration from the editor than you were expecting or you're wanting. Are there any other surprises that have come up during this process where you thought it was going to be a certain way, but then it turned out that it's different?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, that's a good question. So yeah, my kickoff meeting, I thought that that was going to be where we're going to go over the outline, and they'll tell me, we like this chapter, not that one. So I actually had postponed starting writing my book until that first kickoff meeting. I was like the very belligerent teenage boy, not to pick on boys, I have a son who is like this, so I was like my son, let's just put it that way, not without generalizing. My son would say, I can't start the assignment because I don't know what the teacher wants, but really they're just procrastinating. So yeah, that's very surprising to me, like, no, no, just do what's in the book proposal, that's why we bought it, this is what we want. And that kickoff meeting was actually their marketing plan, which felt to me like why are we even talking about this now, I haven't written the book yet. So I found that a bit surprising. The other piece that I thought was going to be [inaudible 00:39:50] but it actually was that I had thought I would have to get a book launch manager, which I’m still not completely sure what that is, I just know people who've come on my podcast have had one. Maybe you can tell me what they do. But I asked the editor with my agent there if I need that, they said no, but you do need to get a publicist. So they do want me to get a publicist that will complement whatever it is that they're doing. So I’m in the process now, Josh, of interviewing publicists to help me and I probably won't wait until next year to start working with one, because I do believe that amplifying my brand and my audience now more than what I can do on my own is going to help the ultimate success of this book.

Josh Steimle:

Speaking of the marketing plan, did HarperCollins say what they would do in terms of marketing, or was it more about what they wanted you to do in terms of marketing?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, they told me what they're going to do. I don't know what the budget is, that they didn't share with me, but we did talk about that there's going to be money for Facebook advertising and for Amazon advertising, which they find highly effective. So that was good to hear, because Amazon advertising is not something as an author, with a traditionally published book that I would have any control over, so I would need to depend on them to do that.

Josh Steimle:

Yeah, and that's great that they're actually putting budget towards that, because that's one of the sticking points a lot of people have with traditional publishers is that they come in and say, all right, book's done, go do your marketing; and people say, wait, I thought you did that; and the publisher says, no, we're leaving you to do that. So it's great that they're putting some money behind your book to push it out there.

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, again, I don't know what that is, that I don't know. I should probably see if I can find out, but I don't know that that – even if they share the number, it would be meaningful to me having not run any of Amazon advertising myself.

Josh Steimle:

Well, it sounds like they really believe in your book and believe it has some good potential, given that they're putting some marketing budget behind it. So that sounds great for you. So I know you're early in the process, but for our audience of first time authors or people who are just aspiring to be first time authors, what are some of the main points that you would want to communicate to these listeners to say, hey, I’ve been there, I know where you are, and here are some key points of advice.

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah, Josh, so this is something I share with my artists, and something that I’m sharing in the book – artists who are at that threshold, and they want to make a full-time living of their creativity, whether their art is writing as your audiences, or creating visual art, or music, or any of those things, you're always going to have that fear of something going wrong and not making it. Our brains have evolved to be wary of fear, our brains want to keep us safe, they want us in that cave. And our fear based brains are going to come up with all kinds of reasons why something isn't going to work. I don't call these excuses, I call them doubts. So all the reasons, and the smarter you are, which I’m sure your audience is very smart intellectuals, the smarter you are, the better you are at coming up with these reasons, and they don't feel like excuses. They feel real to you. They feel real. So just to be careful of what the stories you're telling yourself, those stories that you're making up in your mind why it's not a good time to start, why you're not ready yet, why something won't work for you, be careful of those stories you're telling yourself and rewrite those stories. It is your time. You'll never feel ready. It's your time, and you're going to do it anyway, and you're ready for this step.

Josh Steimle:

That is a perfect place to wrap things up. Miriam, this has been such a great conversation. What's the best place for people to find you and connect with you?

Miriam Schulman:

Well, I would love for them to come and listen to the podcast, of course, it's The Inspiration Place, and it's not just for painters, it's for creatives. We talk a lot about mindset. So if you've enjoyed what I’ve been talking about today, you're certainly going to find something you're going to like on the podcast.

Josh Steimle:

Perfect. And do you have a website as well?

Miriam Schulman:

Yeah schulmanart.com. And if you're on Instagram and you want to say hello to me, you can find me there at schulmanart, I’d love to check out what you're working on.

Josh Steimle:

All right, and Schulman is S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N. Is that correct?

Miriam Schulman:

Yes.

Josh Steimle:

Perfect. Great. Miriam, thank you so much for being with us here today on the Published Author Podcast.

Miriam Schulman:

Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.

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