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What You Need to Know Before You Write a Book

What You Need to Know Before You Write a Book

Many people want to write a book.

I think it’s great.

Books are a fabulous way to document your philosophies, share your beliefs and experience, build credibility around your expertise, and drive leads for your business.

But there is one important realization that virtually all first-time authors completely overlook.

Before you write a book, you need to build an audience.

Before you create the book, you need to create the audience that is going to buy it from you.

Before you think about what your book is going to say, you should first think about how you’re going to sell it.

Every author loves to write but very few know how to sell.

And this creates a conflict because…

Writers write.

Editors edit.

Publishers publish.

Distributors distribute.

Retailers retail.

But no one actually ever SELLS the book!

And what good is all of the work of creating a book if it never gets sold and never gets into the hands of those it was intended for?

Which is a good reminder of why Robert Kyosaki said “Remember, it’s not called New York Times best writing author; it’s New York Times best SELLING author.”

And in order to sell it, you have to have someone to sell it to.

You have to build the audience for it.

You have to build a sales plan for it.

You have to do the work that most people aren’t willing to do.

You have to “Take the Stairs.”

So, before you start daydreaming of all the pearls of wisdom you’d include in your life’s work, spend some time thinking about how you would sell it.

Pretend for a moment that the book is done and you’re holding the first copy in your hands. Then what would you do?

Who would you tell about it?

How would you tell them?

What would you do to compel them to buy it from you?

If you don’t know how to sell, or are afraid to, then you might consider getting a sales coach.

If you have a book and you don’t know how to market it then you might like this free 1 hr training on doing book launches.

But if you’re an aspiring author, build an audience first.

Develop fans and followers first.

Construct a platform first.

Create a sales plan first.

And then once you have it, write the best book ever that captures everything you believe in and go out and sell it like crazy!

How Busy People Can Still Be Bloggers (My 4 Part Writing Process)


Writing is certainly not for everyone.

Writing takes more than skill; it takes commitment.

Interestingly enough, I never grew up caring about or even liking writing. And I never once imagined I would grow up to become a writer and have it be such an important part of my life and business.

But I’ve fallen in love with writing for a few reasons

– It helps me sharpen my own thinking about lessons I’m learning and concepts I’m wrestling with.

– It gives me a historical archive of questions I’ve answered and it documents much of what our team at Southwestern Consulting and me, stand for and believe in.

– It is a routine that forces regular self-reflection and self-improvement.

– It is a skill that has come in handy as critical in a variety of different areas of our business.

– It is a platform that multiplies my time because it requires the same amount of work regardless of if ten people are reading it or 10,000 people are which helps us reach more people.

But another benefit I didn’t realize until recently is that it is also a discipline that helps keep me on schedule.

I find that people tend to think writing must take a massive amount of time but it really doesn’t. For me, writing is much more about consistency than intensity. (My exercise strategy actually follows that same principle.)

And while I wouldn’t recommend writing as the best short term revenue producing activity for most businesses, it does add a tremendous amount of value in a multitude of ways over the long term.

If you’ve ever wanted to write but don’t think you have enough time, maybe you can try some of these habits I’ve developed as part of my own process:


1.Capture the Idea – The hardest part of writing is usually getting started, but you can neutralize that challenge by just keeping a list of things to write about as you have the ideas but then you wait to actually do the writing until you have the time.I keep my list of topics on my notepad in my cell phone. And almost every blog starts as a topic that comes from one of these places:

– A question that someone asks me that I’m going to answer anonymously and publicly (this very article is an example of that)

– A new lesson that I’ve learned that I want to clarify and remember for myself

– Reinforcing a timeless principle I’ve learned from Southwestern Company culture or some other trusted source of truth, or

– Sharing a piece of advice that I would want to give to someone in my life or want to make available to people (like my newborn son) at some point in the future.

One caveat is that if you get into an intense personal situation or experience in your life it’s usually best to not write about those – at least not right away. It’s best to let those situations incubate and allow some time to pass for reflection so you don’t say something out of emotion that you’ll regret later. Plus, time often changes your perspective and shapes what you want to say.


2.Restrict Your Focus – Another major hurdle people struggle with when it comes to writing is that they have so much to say about something that they don’t know where to get started. And then like I used to, they sometimes end up with with a large unorganized blob of disconnected mess.

Combat that indulgence by forcing yourself to focus on only one idea with each blog or article. Answer only one question. Give only one piece of advice. Share only one concept. Have only one central message. Where you get into trouble is by trying to fit too much in and not knowing where to draw the line.

I first learned this lesson in speaking during my journey to the Toastmasters World Championships when one of my mentors said, “Most speakers take a 9 minute speech and try to squeeze it into 7 minutes (the max time allowed in the contest). The winners take a 4 minute speech and deliver it in 6.”


3.Block Your Time – Like so many things, we just need to find a spot in our calendar to make time for it. Do I write in the middle of the day during prime business generating hours? No.

For me, I write about 95% of my articles during one time only: during take off and landing on airplanes. It’s the one time I’m not allowed to have my computer in front me and I’m also disconnected from wifi; so I’ve found that writing is one of the most maximizing ways to use that time.

And it’s about 12 minutes up and 12 minutes down which is exactly the perfect amount of time it should take to write one article on one topic and do a light proofread.


4.Build Your Business – As I mentioned earlier, writing is not the strategy I would suggest for short term business growth; it is a slow long term strategy that can pay dividends but usually only over a long period of time.

That said, content marketing can still be a very useful  tool to a business. While it will never outperform the short term efficiency of picking up the phone and talking to someone about your business ie sales, it can sometimes help you build a broad reputation of trust with a large number of people if you do it well and consistently for a very long period of time.

So make sure you have a strategy for using your writing to capture leads and generate interest for your business that you can follow up with. In fact one of the best things you can do is brainstorm a list of every question your perfect prospect might have and answer them one at a time. After enough time they’ll realize they need to talk to you more!


So don’t buy into the excuse that you don’t have time to write.

It’s no different than making the time to work out a couple times a week, review your goals, recite your affirmations, read the Bible, or any number of other positive habits that take a little bit of time consistently and regularly.

It doesn’t take that long.

What it takes is a decision and a commitment.

In fact “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” is almost never the truth about why people don’t create positive habits.

The truth is that you just need to find a way to efficiently fit in the things that are important to you.

It can be done and it doesn’t have to take a long time or be complicated.

So if it is your desire, write on my friend.

Write on.


How Do You Write Jokes?


If you’re a business leader or a professional speaker you don’t necessarily need to learn how to write jokes, but it will help you if you can learn to be funny. 

Someone recently asked me, “Rory how do you write jokes?”

My response was “don’t try to write jokes; instead write stories.” 

For most people it’s much easier to write about something that really happened to them that makes them or other people laugh as they think back on it. And there is automatically an extra added element of humor when it’s based on a true story. 

Start with writing out the story first in as much detail as you remember. Then as you go back through and edit the story, look for natural opportunities to use these humor techniques:

Exaggerate the character features – Developing your characters is always one of the best ways to improve your stories. So let us know more about who the people are that were in the story and anytime you exaggerate their characteristics it’s usually funny. 

Instead of saying “she was an older woman” say “she was probably 67…thousand years old. Seriously, she was in the Yoda stage of life.”

Embellish the circumstances – Think of interesting ways to express the circumstances. 

Instead of saying “the family was poor” say “there was no way this family was going to have the money…there was a better chance of an Amish family pulling up in a Hummer.” 

Be self-deprecating – People love to laugh at a speakers own ineptness so don’t be afraid to highlight it. 

Instead of saying “I don’t know anything about changing air filters” say “I went to Home Depot and asked the lady for an air filter and she said ‘what size’ and I said ‘they come in different sizes?!'”

Connect the old with the new – Since all stories are from the past it makes us laugh when you introduce an element of the future that everyone knows wasn’t there. 

Instead of saying “Jesus went to Galilee” say “So Jesus pulled up Google Maps and said we must go to Galilee!”

Humanize inanimate objects – Anytime you treat things as living that aren’t really living it is often funny. 

My friend Craig Valentine has a cute story where he says “I needed help so I picked up a book. I remember I looked at the book and then the book looked at me!” The book then proceeds to give him advice as if it were a real person. 

Get inside their heads – We connect with other people by being able to relate with what they’re thinking and experiencing. So tell us what the characters were thinking in the crazy moments. But say something different than what everyone might expect. 

For instance let’s pretend you’re telling a story about a bicycle accident you once had during one of your first jobs. As the bike is falling over tell us what you were thinking. Except what we would expect to hear is “this is going to hurt” so instead say “wow this is really going to enhance my resume!”

Remember you’re not a stand up comedian so no one expects you to be. Which actually very much works in your favor because people won’t be expecting you to be funny in a business environment – and that makes it easier to pull off. So instead of starting with trying to write jokes, just tell stories. 

When speaking you don’t want to “lie” and just outright make things up because that’s dishonest. But you also don’t want to just tell what happened in plain detail because that’s boring. Both are a disservice to your audience. 

Instead, use what is commonly referred to as a “license to embellish.” Which simply means to highlight and play up the most salient features of the story. 

This will give your stories more life, more color, and more laughs.  

P.S. For more on the psychology of why we laugh and how to become a funnier person check out my book “How to be funny to make more money.

How to Know What to Write About


I hear it more and more: “I want to be a writer but I don’t know what to write about.”


“How do I get started writing a blog?”

Folks, let’s not overthink this.

Writing is one of those things that you can literally just start doing.

Straight from the movie Finding Forrester, “the first secret of writing is to write.”

You don’t need a big huge strategy plan. You don’t need a large online following. You don’t need a publisher.

All you need is either a pen and paper or a computer with a word processing program.

Other than that, the only thing that is holding you back is your fear.

It’s your fear that you’ll say the wrong thing or you won’t know what to say at all.

Or maybe you fear that it’s such a big project that you aren’t ready to start yet because you don’t know what the end result with be.

All of that is silly and self-centered. And you only feel fear when you are thinking about yourself.

So just start writing. Your writing will become what it’s supposed to be once you just get it out there.

If you are a non-fiction writer or a company that needs to wake up to the power of content marketing, then it’s even simpler to get started.

I learned this from my pal @JayBaer and his book YouTility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype.

Think of every possible question your potential reader or customer could have and then simply answer them one at a time.

You should always be writing from a depth of knowledge or a depth of experience. In other words, you should be writing about things you know something about.

So ask yourself “what are all the questions that someone just learning about this for the first time would ask?” and then answer them one by one.

Now, consistency is very important as well as having a little process to follow like this.

But other than that there isn’t much to it.

Oh, and that fear you have that says, “If I just give away all of my content and answers for free, why will anyone buy anything from me later?”

Don’t worry about that.

People buy from people they trust. You can’t give away too much information. That would be like worrying about building too much trust or too much of a relationship with a prospect.

Plus, we live in a world where information is everywhere. And it’s mostly free.

There is an abundance of information. No, there is an over-abundance of information. Which is why…

People don’t even really pay for information anymore. What they pay for is organized information.

They pay for information that is put together in a systematic logical way that can be followed and implemented.

And because a blog is a free flowing stream of one random idea to the next, it doesn’t solve people’s ultimate problem of still needing whatever you are selling.

Again, to quote Jay Baer it’s like you’re giving away “content snacks to help you later sell knowledge meals.”

So get over your fear, quit thinking there is something more you need to know that you don’t already, let go of being overwhelmed by the big picture of it all and simply write something useful that the world can use.

10 Steps to Writing a Great Blog

Tips to writing a great blog

I’m getting asked more and more about my writing methodologies. Here is my quick preflight checklist for writing blog posts.

  1. Think of a person or persons in your life that you are writing to and put their name at the top of the page.
  1. In one sentence define what the message of your article is and write that at the top of the page. That is what do you want the reader to think feel or do differently after reading your article.
  1. Write the post. Write emotionally, unapologetically and without editing.
  1. Re-read the post and edit for proper message communication. Cut out anything that doesn’t directly forward your message at the top.
  1. Re-read and edit for proper emotional tone.
  1. Re-read and edit for grammar. Read out loud on this one.
  1. Make a list of targeted SEO words you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for SEO purposes and highlight or appropriately add-in any keywords you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for tweet able moments from the post. List them out separately.
  1. Follow the secret posting schedule.

For more writing resources here’s My Secret to Being a Good Writer and Tips for Writers.

Jeff Goins The Art of Work Episode 99 on The Rory Vaden Show

Jeff GoinsJeff Goins helps people get the attention their work deserves. He is a speaker, online writing teacher, and consultant. Jeff is the author of four books including the new national best seller, The Art of Work. He has written and guest-blogged for over 100 magazines, publications, and blogs. In 2011 and 2012, Jeff’s blog was voted one of the “Top 10 Blogs on Writing” by He also teaches a popular online course called Tribe Writers. Check out his website:

Show Highlights:

  • 3 questions you need to think about to align your passion and work. With @JeffGoins
  • There is a certain level of excellence that can only be fueled by passion @JeffGoins
  • What potty training can teach us about overcoming procrastination. @JeffGoins
  • A writers take on overcoming procrastination with @JeffGoins
  • Sometimes people talk about things that they’ve done different than they actually did them. – @JeffGoins
  • There will be uncomfortable things we have to do, even when we love what we’re doing @JeffGoins
  • How to get past The Procrastination Point
  • It’s okay to be scared. Do it scared.
  • Every type of procrastination is a form of fear @JeffGoins
  • Take the life you’ve been given and make the most of it by doing meaningful work. @JeffGoins
  • The more you do it; the easier it gets. @JeffGoins
  • Reward yourself for doing things you don’t want to do, and procrastination will become a bit easier to overcome
  • Overcoming procrastination is as hard today as it’s ever going to be, then it’s going to get easier

To learn more about Jeff’s new book The Art of Work, visit

The Rory Vaden show is a weekly podcast that Rory hosts every Wednesday, which is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts and has listeners from all around the world. The show shares “insights and inspiration for movers and shakers in the world of business”™. Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews one very special expert guest and thought leader every week. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!