How to Write an Amazon Bestseller, Become a TEDx Speaker and Host an Award-Winning Podcast

This is an interview with entrepreneur and bestselling author Joshua Spodek.

Hello, Joshua. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

My passion is my podcast, Leadership and the Environment, where I lead world-renowned people to become role models.

Most people struggle with how to act on the environment authentically, genuinely, and effectively. I show them how. My three TEDx talks emerged from it.

I also teach leadership and initiative at NYU and coach executives. I am the bestselling author of Leadership Step by Step and Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life (and Work).

In a past life, I co-founded a company based on an invention of mine and led it as CEO with global operations and media coverage.

Before then I helped build and launch an astrophysics satellite while earning a PhD in astrophysics. I also earned an MBA.

What’s your background and how has it influenced what you do today?

I believe my science PhD, MBA, and practical experience leading teams and teaching help me understand our environmental needs in a way few others do but of critical importance—how to lead. I don’t call spreading facts, figures, doom, and gloom leadership.

Most people focus on management and engineering issues. They are important, but CO2 and everything else result from our behavior. Changing behavior is the domain of leadership—our emotions, images, stories, beliefs, values, and such.

Are leaders born or made?

Everyone has the potential to lead as much as he or she wants.

How did you come up with the idea of Leadership Step by Step?

Business school taught me about leadership—enough to learn I could improve, but teaching leadership through lecture, case study, and reading and writing papers is like teaching piano that way.

We learn performance-based activities through practicing the basics.

For example, we learn piano by playing scales and tennis by hitting ground strokes. Nobody teaches piano by lecture and soon nobody will teach leadership that way any more either.

I developed the leadership equivalent of piano scales and the progression to follow to lead to mastery.

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What’s the process of writing a book like?

In my case, since I’d taught the course and coached people that way for years, I knew the structure and content of Leadership Step by Step.

Still, writing it takes time. You have to put everything else aside.

I spent more time editing than writing.

Eventually, you have to put it out. When people like Dan Pink, Seth Godin, and Marshall Goldsmith, and a 4-star General supported it with their incredibly positive endorsements, I felt confident to stop editing and put it out.

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What are the steps to publishing a book?

I recommend starting with a book proposal, not writing from scratch. A proposal forces you to consider your idea at a higher level before the details.

A friend knew a book agent. We met, talked, and liked each other’s work. She supported me a lot at the beginning, when I didn’t know what a book proposal was.

Mostly, you have to write and edit a lot. The foundation to everything is quality writing and I know of no shortcut to practice. I mean a lot. Most people underestimate how much.

What do you do before launching a book to spread the word?

I focused on endorsements from bestselling, highly-regarded authors and leaders since I’d worked with many. I knew readers would value their opinions. I also knew their advice would help me.

I hired a few people to help launch, but I would think twice before outsourcing marketing other books.

Despite the stellar reviews and great sales from the start, a lot of the money was wasted. The eternal problem is you don’t know which part won’t work until you spent it.

Tell us about your new book Initiative: A Proven Method to Bring Your Passions to Life.

Initiative is also based on a class I taught that students loved that evolved from my coaching practice with executives. Clients and students kept getting promotions, job offers, and funding from doing the exercises.

Projects they did from the exercises in that book got written up in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Forbes, Inc, and more.

One led to a TEDx talk. Another spoke at Harvard about her project. One got into Y Combinator and funded by Mark Zuckerberg.

The book gives the exercises from the course, so readers who do the exercises can create equivalent results for themselves in their lives (without paying the $6,000 NYU students did).

I knew people who did the exercises would get similar results. My challenge was to write effectively. I had a great editor.

What does it take to hit #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list?

How to Start an Online Business on The Side [2020 Edition]

Preparation. The bulk of my work was contacting everyone I knew, getting them to contact everyone they knew, and podcasts.

I decided against blast emails in favor of personal ones. It took longer, but I respond to personal emails so figured others did too. I still copied and pasted most of the content, but into past emails so each person knew I wrote them by hand.

As for podcasts, I did about 60.

Today I would do more since I know so many podcasters and my podcast has given me a reputation for attracting world-renowned people, but then I started from scratch.

I want to reiterate: preparation. Execution feels like the most intense part, but it’s just doing what you prepare.

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When did you launch your podcast Leadership and the Environment and how has it grown since then?

I pledged that I would launch in November 2018 and I did, about a quarter to midnight November 30th.

I believe we lack role models in our communities acting environmental values so I want to help create them.

In other words, I seek out and find the most renowned people for guests. I’ve had plenty—A Nobel laureate, a Superbowl winner, an Olympic gold medalist, McKinsey’s three-time Global Managing Director, and more. Here’s a partial list.

You’ll hear on the podcast that I expect to reach people at the level of Oprah, LeBron, and Serena. They will love the results as much as anyone, plus they’ll help create a legacy.

I’ve strategically chosen to focus on guests over marketing because I consider marketing critically important. I don’t want to do two jobs okay. I want to do one job world-class so when I find a world-class marketer with comparable passions, we can partner.

How do you find new guests for your show?

I practice the exercises in my books! They teach how to meet people, connect meaningfully, and lead them so they want to help. I grew up with poor social skills so had to learn them from scratch. Now I know how to teach them.

Mostly from asking each guest if they can recommend peers. I make sure to deliver value with each guest. My podcast asks them to act and share vulnerability. They give a lot so they get a lot. I’ve become friends with many.

I started by asking friends and colleagues for their best recommendations.

I also meet many from in-person events, like panel discussions or public speaking. Because I believe we all feel the mission to steward this planet, I feel confident contacting people I don’t know.

How did your speaking career begin and what have you learned from being a speaker?

I started speaking almost accidentally. Years before writing my first book, I made an early version of it that I had to overhaul.

Editing and reediting led me to make an outline that looked like it would make a decent presentation.

I proposed presenting it to my business school alumni club. They went for it and a few dozen people registered. People liked it enough that I did it again and kept going.

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How do you prepare before a presentation?

I’m preparing for a TEDx talk next week. A TEDx talk I’ll rehearse at least a hundred times.

Last month was more usual. I gave one of my bread-and-butter keynotes—based on my Meaningful Connection exercise, which is chapter 17 of Leadership Step by Step.

Preparing for that one means asking the client about their goals, audience, logistics, etc so I can deliver what they want most.

I still get nervous, sometimes very nervous, but less with experience. I remind myself that Bill Russell regularly vomited before games and he won 11 NBA championships.

You had less than two weeks to prepare for your TEDx talk. How did that go?

Fantastic!

I hired a coach and postponed everything I could to make time to write, edit, and rehearse.

Of course, I was nervous. The speaker curator asked me to speak on something different than I proposed. I liked the change but struggled to find the angle to make it work. Everything came together but I was revising it up to the morning of.

My second TEDx talk ended up more thrilling. I blanked on what to say about two-thirds through.

My mind and heart raced, which made remembering harder. I told a joke that got the audience on my side and after a pause restarted, though I lost some of it that I liked. They edited out my maybe 30 seconds of dead air.

Now that it happened, I’m glad because it’s about the worst I can imagine, it wasn’t that bad, and I learned I could handle it.

What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

My book Initiative is the best advice I can give.

I’m not gratuitously promoting my work. I wrote the book because no other resource teaches the basics through exercises, which is how we learn performance-based activities like acting, athletics, playing instruments, the military, etc.

I believe that progression of exercises is the best way to learn to practice entrepreneurship. I posted videos of people who did the exercises so you can hear it from them.

Where can people find you online?

Everything is at JoshuaSpodek.com.

In the upper right corner are links to the books, podcast, and to contact me directly.

Joshua Spodek shares his best tips and strategies that helped him write a bestselling book, host a successful podcast, and be a TEDx speaker: writeabestsellingbook #writeabestseller #publishabookonamazon #bookwritingtips #bookwritingforbeginners