001: Pat Flynn – Self-Published Wall Street Journal Bestseller

Today I Interview One of My Mentors and Clients

Today I interview one of my coaching clients and entrepreneur, Pat Flynn. He is the founder of the Smart Passive Income Blog. The Smart Passive Income podcast has been downloaded over 33 million times at the time of this recording. He is the Author of Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and he shares all about his journey in this episode.

I first met Pat at the event he hosts with his buddy Chris Ducker called 1 Day Business Breakthrough. It’s a mastermind event where 20 people are put on a hot seat and get feedback about their business.

That single meeting, it launches my writing career and my coaching business. On today’s show, he shares his writing journey and his struggles and fears. I hope you enjoy this episode.

Pat Flynn is the author of the book Will It Fly: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money. He is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Although a self-publishing author, he sold thousands of copies of his book across different formats (Kindle, Audiobook, and printed version). Just recently, he released another book, which is actually an expanded version of his 2013 piece called Let Go.

Today, we talk about some concepts behind the writing process and what you need to think about when you put yourself in the shoes of a writer.

Pat is also the host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. A self-made entrepreneur, he has built so much from getting laid off from his architecture job in 2008 to building his eBook. He wrote a book on helping people pass the LEED exam and he was able to make $7,000 on his first month, online. And the rest is history.

Here are the highlights of my conversation with Pat:

[02:33] The first time Pat thought about writing a book

Pat actually wrote a book back in 2013, called Let Go, where he narrated his journey from getting laid off to essentially becoming an entrepreneur.

But he knew he wanted to write a “bigger” book just like some of those inspirational books he has read, where he took the principles he learned and incorporated them into the business he runs.

[04:08] Vomiting Your Ideas on a Piece of Paper

Pat and Azul initially met at a conference organized by entrepreneur Chris Ducker. Then they eventually met at a coffee shop and Azul made him do this ten-minute exercise to just write down and “vomit” all the ideas he had on a piece of paper.

He then started to write about all the things he knew about – building an online business, passive income, speaking, etc. By the end, he filled this sheet of paper with 50 different ideas related to online business and building a life for yourself.

[05:03] Creating the “Encyclopedia of Online Business,” Seriously?

After reading all the things he had written, Pat thought about creating the encyclopedia of online business. He simply wanted to put everything he knows into a book.

Upon hearing all this, Azul kind of brought Pat back into earth, knowing an encyclopedia was, well, quite a lot. In fact, he asked Pat this practical question:

Do people actually read encyclopedias until now?

[06:16] Lessons Pat Learned from Azul

What Pat likes about the way Azul coaches is the way that makes people think. He basically never told anybody what to do. Instead, he only helped Pat discover what it is he needed to do through the questions asked.

People go to encyclopedias to find a very specific answer to a very specific question. So Pat began figuring out which of the topics are more important or what are the ones most people are asking about.

[07:13] Who Is Your Audience? What Is Their Pain?

Eventually, Pat realized that based on surveys, his audiences comprises 50% of people who have yet to start a business. So he began collecting data from them, particularly regarding why they haven’t started a business yet.

A lot of their reasons were based on fear, uncertainty, not knowing whether their idea is great, or not having an idea to start in the first place.

So Pat wanted to frame his book around this concept. He wanted to help people to have so much confidence in their idea that they have to move forward with it.

Then came the birth of a book about validating ideas.

[07:50] The Title and the Outline – Narrowing It Down to Your First Dominoes

Pat didn’t come up with the title until after writing the first draft. Pat and Azul tried to brainstorm everything on a whiteboard. They went through the same exercise he did when they first sat down at a coffee shop. Then he began to see how everything was coming together.

Azul helped Pat take this huge goal and narrow it down to its “first dominoes.” The first domino knocks over the next one and then the next. But you have to start with one.

[09:44] Dictating Your Draft

Then Azul had Pat dictate the parts. This means he had to record what he was saying. Azul knew he was comfortable with speaking out his because he’s used to speaking.

Using an application called Rev, his audio recordings were being transcribed. So the audio files became his first draft.

Reading through his draft, Pat wasn’t satisfied and he began getting discouraged. Azul explained that the purpose of the recording wasn’t to dictate the whole book but to allow himself to be creative in this process and to not edit while doing it. When you’re able to do these, amazing stories and ideas will begin to surface.

Out of all the text in the audio, Pat realized 10% was useful while the other bigger percentage wasn’t. But the 10% he got to keep was just GOLD.

[12:40] Narrowing Things Down and Writing the Second Draft

From here, they further narrowed down his writing points. Would a person reading the book need all these nine examples for them to get the idea or could they just have the top three?

Based on his refined outline, he began typing out his second draft.

Azul does not recommend editing your first draft. Trust the fact that great ideas don’t come from the first shot. So trust it’s going to be great, just not yet.

[14:00] The Morning Routine

Then Pat got connected with Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning. He then began to experiment with his morning routine to get his mind in the right mode. Being a night owl, he thought he did his best work at night.

But after switching to the morning routine, he found it to be so liberating. It was a great transition from his morning routine to his writing. His brain was always ready to write.

So he got himself to a productivity state where he could not waste time. He had a deadline every single day – which was when his kids would get up in the morning.

[15:30] Overcoming Discouragement

Going through the second draft, he found himself struggling with the content. He got discouraged again and was worried about every single word or sentence.

He was blogging and podcasting at that same time, both of which he could do effortlessly. But he just felt like the book was killing him. The big shift came when he began to switch to a mindset that he had to stop thinking of it as a book.

Azul explains that the blocks people come up within their brains are usually associated with the pain of the writing they’re not enjoying as opposed to those the writing they’re enjoying.

True enough, Pat realized that while he was enjoying writing his blogs, it got him thinking about writing his book as if it were a series of blog posts. So he took two days to convert everything he had in Scrivener (which he no longer uses now).

When he wrote in the exact same manner as he would write a blog post, stories just began to come out. The framework started to make sense for him. And everything else just snowballed from there. Bit by bit, he started seeing more and more of the book done. He was getting more productive and he was beginning to get more excited about it.

[18:50] Picking the Perfect Title

During this process, Pat was also attending some meetings of the Mastermind Groups he was in where he talked a lot about his struggles as well as which pieces he felt were still missing.

Then he realized he still didn’t have a title for the book. He wanted it to be great. But just like writing his draft, he struggled the same with picking the right title.

He remembers doing a mastermind call with some folks where they spent the whole time coming up with ideas about the book. They asked all these great questions until one of them brought up the idea on whether this book will actually fly. So he began to write down all things related to flying.

[20:24] Will It Fly? or Just Ship! – The Power of Transformational Work

Pat shares this great story of his son related to flying. This actually opens up the entire book and sets the tone of the whole thing.

He explains one of the reasons many business fail. Many people who start businesses see somebody else doing it. They attempt to go through the same motions. But because they rush into it and they haven’t validated their idea, they fail. And they think they’re never set for it.

Pat debunks this mindset, further saying that it just takes a little bit of care and time upfront. Seth Godin has a very famous phrase, “Just ship.” But he thinks this should actually be rephrased to “do a bit of research to make sure your ship is going into the right direction.

Azul explains that transformational work has to transform the writer first. If it doesn’t transform you, there’s not much hope of transforming the person on the other end of the words. It’s just information.

[23:45] Rewriting Let Go, Expanded Version

Pat’s book, Let Go, is about how he got into the online space. Written in 2013, Pat describes his journey from getting laid off in the architecture industry to becoming an entrepreneur. He shares deep, personal details about his struggle and transformation.

The new version would still have the exact same story on the first half. The other half is new and updated. He talks about what’s currently going on. Basically, the gist of the book is that you’re always going to have to let go in order to grow.

In this book, he shares all the things he has learned to succeed as well as new challenges he’d have to face. Not only an update, the book serves to be a well-rounded guide packed with strategies to help people who are thinking of building their own business.

Pat explains how we all have things that make us stay where we are. But life’s most amazing moments happen outside of our comfort zone. Because of resistance brought about by society, our family, ourselves, and failed past experiences, we don’t take that action.

Moreover, what’s most rewarding for Pat is knowing how much impact his book has on people who have read it and have been motivated by it.

[30:10] Pat’s Bucket List as a Writer

Pat would love to get into Fiction and writing children’s books one day. Particularly, he wants to get involved with education seeing its impact on children.

Being big on visualizations on a daily basis, Pat was visualizing people going through a lot of the exercises that he was sharing in the book. And those things did come true! Now, he’s imagining parents reading his books to their children and their children getting inspired to try new things they wouldn’t have tried otherwise.

[32:07] What’s Next: Converting Casual Audience Into Raving Fans

What’s next on his plate is a book he’s writing about fans. Pat has a very impressive fan base. His raving fans would travel eight hours by car just to see him for thirty minutes. Or they’d buy any product he comes up with. He thinks this is amazing but he’s also aware that this comes with a lot of responsibility.

So Pat wants to share the process of taking somebody you’ve just met to somebody who’s thinking about you all the time. This was based off of 2014 presentation in Las Vegas called, How to Turn Your Casual Audience into Raving Fans. In fact, it became one of his most popular talks that after that, he was asked to talk about it several times at different conferences. And more and more people started to talk about it.

Then when he spoke at an event called Social Media Day in San Diego, a well-known author came up to him after his presentation and suggested the idea of turning his presentation into a book.

This is one topic Pat is extremely passionate about. Nowadays, everybody is looking to get more and more fans. People want more likes on YouTube or other social media platforms. Big brands want fans, too, because they will evangelize your business. They will become ambassadors of your brand. They will support you. And this is something many people are struggling with when building their brands online.

[34:30] Traditional Publishing and A Writer’s Nightmare

There are traditional publishers that already know this book is coming out and they want to get their hands on it.

Having an existing huge audience, Pat could just publish it himself and distribute the book. But he also sees the benefits to getting mass market distribution through a publisher he would barely get on his own otherwise. This is something Pat still has to think through.

Azul narrates how he hand-wrote his first book on paper and pencil when he first began. He was so overwhelmed to use the computer and couldn’t write. He thought he couldn’t do it but he had to. Three-quarters through finishing it, he lost the book he was writing. Only eight days left before he needed to type it and turn it in, his goal was just to finish it no matter what. So he started writing the part where he left off. Luckily, he found the manuscript.

Thanks to using a computer, you can benefit from its auto-save feature and get on different devices.

[37:20] People’s Ideas Matter, Each One’s Story Is Unique

One of the things Azul appreciates about working with authors is the idea that their ideas matter.

Your story is unique. It’s important to be told.

Some people may argue with Azul for saying not everyone should write a book. That said, he believes everyone should tell their story because they matter.

[37:55] Pat’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

Pat leaves aspiring writers with some words of wisdom. You don’t have to do it on your own. It’s your story. It’s going to be your book. But there are people out there who are very knowledgeable about what it takes to get a book done. If you have the opportunity to work with Azul, do it, or simply work with people whom you think can hold you accountable.

Knowing there’s somebody on the other end knowing there are certain deadlines you have to meet and they’re there to review them and read them with you is very motivating.

So have something in place for you to hold you accountable. You can’t just wait to be in the right mood or wait for the time to write. The time you need to write is right now. Plus, knowing there’s another person to hold you accountable on the other end is helpful.

Secondly, when writing your first and second drafts, just let it go. Let it flow. Don’t edit. Some people have even taken off the “Delete” key from their keyboard to literally not give them any chance to delete.

Pat recommends reading the book Bird by Bird, specifically geared towards people who are struggling with writing. If you write your first draft and it’s great, you’re not a human being. It’s not happening. So you have to be okay with it and expect it to be terrible. Through that disaster, you will begin to start to master all this stuff you’re going to create in your book.

[40:00] Hiring a Good Editor

Find an amazing editor who can capture your voice, help your words shine, and find the ways that you didn’t quite hit the mark. It’s important to work with somebody that gets you. So shop around for editor that’s not just correcting the grammar or taking out spaces, but someone that can really help you refine your story.

Azul admits this is the thing he didn’t do well in his book. He thought hiring an editor was okay. But having a great editor is big.

Additionally, Pat cites the different kinds of editor. A copy editor gets all the grammar and punctuation right. A developmental editor is someone who looks into the order and looks for any missing story or a better story that can support your point. Ann, from Command Z Content was crucial to the editing process. 

In creating Pat’s book, they went through a couple of rounds of copy edits. Then they read the book out loud. Pat and Azul actually spent eight hours together on Skype to read through the book. And even after two rounds of copy editing, they still found a few errors here and there.

[41:45] Don’t Be Afraid to Ask People to Buy Your Book

After doing all this, Pat was very motivated to want to go out there and begin to market it without feeling ashamed of doing it. This gave him the confidence to ask people to buy it. This can be hard for many people to do but if you have a good story with lessons that can inspire, motivate, educate, and entertain people, it’s your job to go out there and put your story in front of people.

You should never be ashamed if you have something worth sharing.

Finally, write your story, get it out there and work hard to make sure people know it’s there and they find it.

A lot of authors Azul has worked with have this mindset that “if it’s good, they’ll find it.” But that’s not how it works. Pat adds that the success stories only make up for a very small percentage of writers. You have to give yourself more chance to be found. The more opportunities you give yourself to be found, the higher chance of you getting picked up.

Dig down into these success stories and you’d find they didn’t happen overnight. Tim Ferriss’ book was rejected 22 times before it was picked up. Harry Potter got rejected many times by publishers as well.

It’s going to take massive failures before you get to massive success. You just have to keep going no matter what other people say.

Episode Resources:

Books Mentioned:

Will It Fly: How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money by Pat Flynn (Will It Fly Audiobook)

Let Go by Pat Flynn

Smart Passive Income Podcast

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Moonlighting on the Internet by Shelby Larson

The Miracle Morning with Hal Elrod

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Apps Mentioned:



Pat’s Review of Azul’s Book

Pat’s talk on How to Turn Your Casual Audience into Raving Fans

Smart Passive Income

Pat Flynn’s Youtube review of My book

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001: Pat Flynn - Self-Published Wall Street Journal Bestseller001: Pat Flynn - Self-Published Wall Street Journal Bestseller

001: Pat Flynn - Self-Published Wall Street Journal Bestseller