005: Seth Hanes – From a Book to an Online Course

Leveraging His Book to Create Authority

Seth Hanes is the author of the book, Break into the Scene: A Musician’s Guide to Making Connections, Creating Opportunities, and Launching a Career. He is a classically trained musician who graduated from the Music School of Philadelphia.

Today, he shares with us his thought process behind writing his book, his goal for writing a book, the power of investing in a business coach, and how he leveraged his book to get more opportunities and help more people in the process.

[03:35] Why Write a Book

Seth has long been thinking about starting a book while at music school. His biggest issue with the music world is the tremendous lack of practical training for musicians, specifically how they can monetize their skill sets.

Like many creative types, schools teach students a hyper-specific way of doing things and how to approach their craft. But they’re taught little to nothing about how to go out into the world and turn that into a career.

His book, Break into the Scene came out when he was trying to solve his own problems. Having read some books as well as some online courses and worked with business coaches, he tried to figure out how to go about turning his skill set into a money-making machine. And he found the striking lack of good resources on this topic out there. Hence, he decided to create something he wished he had access to when he was getting started.

It practically took him four years from when this idea was conceived until he finally at down to write it. He knew that if he had to be successful at this, he had to take the time and invest his time, energy, and resources to make it happen.

[07:10] Finding the Right Angle for the Niche

Seth explains the book was written to be a how-to guide for people, specifically for musicians. The goal is to give them a quick result through equipping them with tools they need to be successful after reading it.

What he found intimidating with other similar books is that they’re mostly written by university professors. But he felt they lack the rawness of their own story. So he wanted to take a different approach with this.

This said, he did have some share of the impostor’s syndrome where he doubted himself, which he had to deal with for years and which he considers to be the biggest hangup. But what actually helped him grow his confidence was when he started a blog. He wanted something in a how-to format, presenting really raw, tactical advice musicians could use in specific situations they may find themselves in.

He was like creating a little playground for himself where he could test out these ideas – see what works, see what didn’t and what was resonating with people. And this was how he approached the ideation of the book, which was a long process to figure things out.

By writing his blog to overcome his impostor’s syndrome, he saw how his audience was reading it and people were getting results. Then he knew he was ready to write a book and all he needed now was to get a game plan to do it.

[10:45] The Impostor’s Syndrome and How It Impacts Your Confidence

Azul focuses the discussion a bit on the the impostor’s syndrome which is pretty important considering it’s probably one of the major reasons people don’t take action to begin with.

It’s that feeling that you don’t deserve it or that you’re not going to be able to do well or write as well as somebody else.

In fact, he thinks the testing that Seth did was to figure out if things were going to work before he invested his time and effort. Seth admits there were many years of procrastination between the point of thinking about it and actually doing it.

Azul confirms that while working with Seth, it wasn’t that he didn’t have the knowledge, but he didn’t have the confidence to know that it would resonate with the world. What was in his head was all his ideas spread across different places (blog, interviews) and now he had to bring it all together to have that flow. And this gave him clarity.

[12:10] Writing In Your Own Style, Your Own Voice

Seth was also initially concerned about not being grammatically correct but it’s how he talks. However, this does resonate with actual artists even if they may not resonate with those in the academic world. Eventually, they would see how people are getting results from it anyway.

Seth has spoken at big universities and one of his goals was to use this as a tool to get himself out there further. He is specific about how he writes and presents his ideas. he thinks one of the ideas people struggle with is they try to sound like other people when they write and it just doesn’t land. Seth is a very casual guy and doesn’t want to get into the formality of things.

So this is something he wanted to reflect in the book itself. He would normally write line by line and not in full paragraphs. And that’s just how he writes. Some people don’t like that and he’s fine with that. But for him, this was how he knew he’d be able to write it and share it so he just had to stick to his guns with it.

Seth adds that anybody who reads his stuff can immediately identify what he writes because of his distinct voice and style. Part of that comes from ignoring some of the conventional advice about writing and presenting ideas.

Again, this can easily be tied into the impostor’s syndrome. Azul stresses the fact that there is no right way to do any of this. Just remember that there is somebody consuming it. It’s not for you, but there’s that style of yours. And people will get to know you and appreciate you and like you, or not.

[15:55] Writing the First Draft is a Sprint

Seth struggled with getting the initial idea out on the page. So he started out a mind map where he those idea placed on some cards. And he points out one of the biggest things for him which was that he didn’t want to start unless he’s doing it the right way.

People can tend to be perfectionists but you have to get past that. And for Seth, this was a really big mental shift for him. Just getting that first draft done and out was really a mental barrier for him.

Azul gives a great analogy of writing the first draft as a sprint. He encourages people to make this into a sprint rather than taking your time and working on it for several months, or worse, even years. He says this is the worst thing you can do because you grow and change as a person. Your ideas change. If you wait that long, you’re going to want to change the book every three or four months.

Hence, it’s important to sprint.

Azul recommends reading Bird by Bird. It’s counter-intuitive to what’s being taught in schools where you need to edit while you go. And he explains this is the worst thing you can do because there are two different processes. One is the creative side while the other is a filter for editing things out. Unfortunately, a lot of people never get to finish it because it’s not perfect yet.

The first draft is supposed to be messy and ugly. And if you believe that, then you’re doing perfectly well. Then there’s that aspect of having multiple editors since you need a lot of eyes on it.

[20:30] Putting It Out on Amazon and Marketing the Book

The day of the release finally came and Seth vividly remembers it. He thinks people need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish with a book. While it may be to sell thousands of copies and make money for some people, others may just want to share ideas with people. Seth’s goal was to get it in front as many musicians as possible knowing this is something valuable to people.

The day it launched, he was so relieved that it went successfully. Talk about debuting at #1 and #3 for an Amazon category. And up to this day, it still sells every month and he still gets a check from Amazon. He still gets to receive emails from readers from around the world who are using the material. A year later, people are still writing him and writing about it. He has seen people taking pictures of it on Instagram and tweet about it. They send him messages on social media.

He could say this was one of the most satisfying things he has ever done. It wasn’t that he was selling so much but it was that knowing it was out in the world and that he accomplished this thing and it was doing what it was intended to do was what was really satisfying for him.

Seth did a whole big launch and went out to various podcasts. He did guest-post on different sites. He built up his own site and he had his own audience and email list that he built up. So he used all these assets he had built to make his book marketing success.

Moreover, he has always wanted to do more speaking and he was able to do this because of the book’s success. He has gotten a lot of consulting clients from people who read the book or heard him on the podcast.

[23:20] Standing Out in a Crowd

Seth just started working at a digital marketing agency. and he believes the book was a big part of him standing out from the crowd. He has a music degree and a self-taught marketer with zero formal training. So it’s hard to stand out in crowd of people with MBA and business degrees.

What he has instead, is raw skill set that he has developed over the years out of doing it over and over again. And he was able to demonstrate this by doing things like marketing his book and getting clients and building his own business from it. So for him, the book was hugely instrumental in all of those things. And he’s very proud to have created it.

In fact, when he went in for his interview for his current role, he saw his book on the shelf. Azul says it’s a pretty strong “calling card” for his ability to produce results. It’s right there on your future employer’s office. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Seth recounts how this happened. He reached out to this agency, applied online, and got rejected immediately. So he put together this whole presentation and a website along with a bunch of ideas and he sent them to the founder of the company.

He eventually got his foot in the door by tweeting the founder at the company. It was a long and rigorous process that he didn’t get the job. A couple of months later, he went back to some of the people he knew who work there and reached out to them thru email. So he got invited in and when he got in the office, he saw his book sitting on the shelf. So by then, he was able to leave a pretty good impression.

[27:30] Leveraging His Book to Create Authority

Azul outlines how Seth has leveraged the book to help him get more opportunities. You need to understand that it’s not the book itself. But if you want to be a writer, then make it a living as a writer and you’d have to be writing more books and that’s where the money will come.

On the other hand, if you’re using it as a way to grow as a person or grow your influence or your opportunity, then a book is a great way to do it. It’s a great feeling just knowing you’re helping other people get to where you were when you first started out and then watching them grow and their success in whatever field you’re writing about.

And Seth adds you really don’t have to write hundreds of pages. For example, he ordered the book Love Yourself by Kamal Ravikant and he laughed at how short it was. It was about 40-50 pages with little blurbs in it just formatted in the book. But he sold tens of thousands of copies. So you can’t really get hang up on the preconceptions of what a book actually is and that you have to do it in a certain way because it’s not true.

That being said, you’d have to get past the assumptions of what a book really is which can serve as a big mental block for people.

[30:55] Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publication

While there were times he was thinking of approaching traditional publishing and reworking some of the book, but he doesn’t personally see the value from doing it. He thinks that anything they’re going to do, he can probably do better on his own considering it’s just a small niche. So he really doesn’t see any financial incentive going down the traditional publishing route. He just sees it as something that made sense so he decided not to pursue it. Nevertheless, it’s a matter of persona preference and the space that you’re writing in.

Azul adds people don’t know how publishing works. And one of the things they don’t realize is that you will most likely surrender most of your rights to the publisher. So they will own the audio rights and the rights on the name of the book. And people might get a small advanced payment from it. But the truth is, you’re fighting for books on Amazon or any bookstore much as anybody else.

So this is something you need to weigh out. Will this benefit you? Will this match your goals? Pat Flynn has proven that you can actually get your book on Barnes and Noble even if you don’t have it traditionally published. Being an online test dummy, he always finds ways to do things. More importantly, your goal is what matters here.

[33:30] From a Book to an Online Course

From writing his book, Seth has developed an online course and uses this material to help people who need more than information and need guidance.

He wanted to find a way to turn this into more of an opportunity to himself and be able to help more people. He already had the content created and he knew he had the audience that wanted more. So the online course seemed like the logical next step for him.

He already had an email list and a website people are reading, so it was a matter of turning that content into a course. And when he did the launch, he made a good chunk of money with it, which was something he could re-invest so he can create more stuff. For him, it’s a great way to open another revenue stream for himself and help more people in the process.

He got an email from a student who told him he got to triple his income because of reading his book and blog and taking his course. He was able to use his material to start systematically growing what he was already doing. In total, he has invested less than $100 or maybe more in Seth’s products, and he’s gotten massive results.

And it’s people like this guy is why Seth keeps on pushing forward on this because he knows it’s helping people. Additionally, he loves getting to meet people and working with them. He ultimately looks at it as just another piece of the puzzle.

[36:36] The Power of Investing in a Business Coach

Seth is a big fan of working with other people on projects because it bakes accountability into it. So he did hire a business coach to give him some actionable steps and deliverables.

Also, making a financial investment in something is important. He had never worked with a coach or taken an online course that he wasn’t able to turn around and apply the material to make more money. While it may cost money upfront, it’s so worth it to make the investment in yourself. If you’re paying somebody money to help you do something, you’ll absolutely do the work to get there.

It all boils down to having that sense of accountability. The best way Seth thinks anyone could get it is by working directly with someone who’s there to help you where you want to go. Azul adds it’s more of a head game in there rather than the information you get from them.

[41:00] Seth’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

Seth says he’s nothing special. He’s just some guy that had an idea and wanted to share it with people. So if he can do it, anyone else can do it. Moreover, he stresses the importance of getting real specific with what it is you really want to achieve when writing a book. Why are you actually writing the book and what is the outcome you want to see?

He doesn’t think everybody should write a book. It’s a very difficult process and it can get very frustrating. It can take a lot of time. So if you don’t have a great direction and goal with it, it’s going to be difficult for it to be successful. But the more direction you’re able to give yourself with it, the easier the process will be. Then you know how to work towards that specific goal.

Reach out with people writing books and blogs in your specific industry or niche. Ask them if writing a book is something that makes sense. Then work backwards towards what the actual process looks like.

Again, know what it is you’re really trying to achieve to begin with and what it actually takes to get there. Lastly, check out the Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday if you need any help with writing. It talks about how content spreads and lasts over time and how it resonates with people in the long term.


Reach out with Seth on SethHanes.com where you will find his blog and other resources.

Break into the Scene: A Musician’s Guide to Making Connections, Creating Opportunities, and Launching a Career

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Love Yourself by Kamal Ravikant

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday


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005: Seth Hanes - From a Book to an Online Course005: Seth Hanes - From a Book to an Online Course

005: Seth Hanes - From a Book to an Online Course