SPS-196: How to Turn a Struggle Into a Strength – with Hilary Jastram

Author, editor, coach, and podcaster Hilary Jastram talks to James about dealing with self-doubt as a creative person and also turning the adversities in our lives into advantages.

Show Notes

  • Using difficult life lessons to empower
  • Repurposing existing content for new purposes
  • The importance of getting out from behind your own self-doubt
  • Honouring your creative process, whatever that looks like
  • Serving your reading audience vs. persuading them

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

COURSE. The SPF 101 course is open for enrollment until Oct 23, 2019.

Transcript of Interview with Hilary Jastram

Intro: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.

Hilary Jastram: Our fears and our tragedies are opportunities. We don’t learn as much from these groundbreaking moments as we do from the moments that nearly threaten our lives or they shake up our value system, and we have an opportunity to get stronger there.

Intro: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie best seller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show. It’s James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: Hello to you, Mark Dawson. We are recording this quite late in the week for us, aren’t we? So this is bang up to date. What can we say that’s bang up to date?

Mark Dawson: We can say it’s my daughter’s birthday today. I’m recording on my daughter’s birthday. I’m very, very busy today, so running into the office to do this, then running back home to do stuff. Oh, goodness, it’s very busy at the moment. London last night, back home late. Loads going on.

James Blatch: Okay, we’re going to talk about London last night. We should say happy birthday to Freya. That’s an exciting day. How old is she? Six, is that right?

Mark Dawson: Eight.

James Blatch: Eight. Oh my goodness, doesn’t time fly?

Mark Dawson: It does.

James Blatch: Okay, well I’ve just celebrated the 16th of mine, so it gets even more terrifying as you get older.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Thank you.

James Blatch: Right. We’re going to talk about quite a lot today. Let’s start by welcoming our Patreon supporters who have gone to, and they’ve pledged a minimum of a dollar an episode. Could be up to three dollars, and there’s a sliding scale of what you get in return for that. But we’re very welcome.

Mark Dawson: Sliding scale.

James Blatch: Sliding scale indeed. Yes, that’s quite right. But we are very pleased for people to join us and we’d like to welcome them.

We’d like to welcome Jeanette. Now, this is actually quite a difficult one. In fact, you know what, I’m going to hand over to you to pronounce. I’ll spell it to you, Mark. Are you ready?

Mark Dawson: Oh yes.

James Blatch: H-R-V-A-T-I-N.

Mark Dawson: H-R-V-I-T-I-N?

James Blatch: No, H-R-V-A-T-I-N.

Mark Dawson: Hm. I’m too polite to try, because I’ll almost certainly get that wrong. So we’ll just say thank to you Jeanette.

James Blatch: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Luckily, I’ve got her author name, which is JM Hart. Do you know what, Jeannette? I think that was a good decision to go with JM Hart as an author name there. She’s from Sydney, Australia, so thank you very much indeed, Jeanette.

And Sandra Matthews is also joining us this week. So, Sandra, you are very welcome.

You can go to, and the best thing you get from it, I think you get lots of things actually at the various levels, but one of the best things perhaps you get is, you get entry to the SPF University, and we have regular live training just for you on that. Right. Worth every penny. Worth every cent.

Okay, we’re going to talk a couple of things before we hear from today’s interviewee. And, Mark, last night you were in London. You’ve been a judge on the Premier Book Prize. I did notice it seemed to be the same day as the Booker was announced.

Mark Dawson: Yes. It was Mariella Frostrup who is quite well known in the UK, not well known outside the UK, but she was the celebrity judge this year. And she did make reference to the fact that there was another less prestigious award going on somewhere down the road from where we were in St. Martin’s Lane in London.

But it was good. This was the first time I’ve been a judge, so there was me, LJ Ross, Orna Ross, there’s a Ross contingent on the panel this year, a couple of Amazonians. We had lunch about two months ago and we talked about the five books that had been nominated, and very pleasing to see at least three of them are by SBF community members, which is lovely, including the winner.

It was a difficult judging decision. I won’t say anything more about that because I think that kind of stuff has to stay confidential. But we’ve had a very interesting discussion and eventually came to choose the winner.

He was a man called Ian Sainsbury, and I’ll say something about him in a minute. But when we were in NINC in Florida, at the Sharktooth Tavern for our Wednesday drinks, one of the nominees came up to me, I don’t know whether he knew I was a judge or not, but his name is, I’m going to get this wrong, it’s an Irish name, it’s Queeve I think. Something along those lines. He wrote a really good book that I enjoyed very much, but I had to do my best poker face because we weren’t allowed to say obviously who the winner was.

James Blatch: Yes.

Mark Dawson: And I was kind of slightly taken aback, and I had a little bit to drink, but I just about managed. I think I did manage to pull it off. He didn’t know. Obviously I knew who the winner was.

So anyway, yes, we went to London yesterday and had the awards. It was really lovely because Ian, I think he’s about 50 I think. He’s been writing for awhile, mostly sci-fi, and he wrote a psychological thriller called The Picture on the Fridge, which is a really interesting concept where a small child starts drawing what turn out to be murder scenes in America. So she shouldn’t be able to know what these scenes look like and she’s drawing accurate representations of them. So it’s an interesting concept, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Because I knew who the winner was, I was watching him very carefully as the announcement was made, and it was lovely. He looked kind of staggered because this is a 20,000 pound prize, so it’s good money. He gets an A-Pub contract and his book will now possibly be taken forward for a prime video production as well. There’s a chance that might come off. But apart from his reaction, the even lovelier reaction was his wife, who was standing next to him, and burst into tears.

James Blatch: Oh.

Mark Dawson: I didn’t speak to her. I spoke to Ian quite a lot, but I think it looked to me like it wasn’t necessarily the fact that he’d won 20,000 pounds, it was more that he’d been acknowledged after trying hard for a long time, and doing quite well. I mean, sci-fi did pretty well I think. But he was acknowledged very publicly as a very good writer. So that was very, very sweet.

Then subsequently to that, I found out he lives in Beccles, which is about five miles away from Lowestoft which is where I’m from. He met his wife in Lowestoft, which is where I’m from. So lots in common. So it was great, and coming to the live show next year. In fact, several of maybe all of the nominees he’s coming to the live show next year, so that was great as well. So we all had a very, very enjoyable evening.

James Blatch: We should mention this. Hannah Ellis was one of the nominees, and I’m also not 100% on the pronunciation of Mr. McDonell’s first name but what do you think it was?

Mark Dawson: I think it’s Queeve.

James Blatch: Queeve McDonnell, Claire Moore, Emily Organ and Ian Sainsbury and Emily’s been around in our community for a long time. On the road to recognize all the names so one way and another even if they’re not SPF as they’re very much part of the indie community and scene. So it’s a great.

This is our award, and when I say our, our is now such a huge movement globally that this was only going to get stronger and stronger. And 20 grand is not to be sniffed at, right?

Mark Dawson: No. Absolutely no, no, its a big chunk of change. So I mean, that was lovely, but it was more I think, as I say, it was recognition that he was taken aback by and lovely reaction from the other authors who were all very supportive.

I had a chat with them all beforehand in the green room as Amazon plied them with alcohol prior to the event kicking off. Generally it was a very good event, lots of people there some wanting to speak to me which was very nice and lots of them are coming next year to the live event, so it’s going to be fun.

James Blatch: Excellent. Well, there’s one thing I think is maybe slightly odd about the Kindle storyteller award. I should raise this with Darren. And maybe I’ve got this wrong but I think it’s only open two books that are published within a very short period. I think is May, June, July and August.

Mark Dawson: No. I think it’s a year. Basically you enter by changing one of the metadata fields with the words storyteller or something along those lines. I think it’s been longer than that actually. So you can enter next year probably. Who knows if you’ll be published by then, so maybe the 2021.

James Blatch: Not far off now. I thought I read somewhere that it precluded me entering, for instance, not that I necessarily would, although I don’t see there’s any harm, and I think most people probably have entered, I think Tom Ashworth said that he had changed his field to enter. But why didn’t you shortlist Tom?

Mark Dawson: I don’t choose the shortlist. There were five books that I had to read in about two weeks, which was challenging. But Amazon, I know they have thousands of entries. I think it’s they have a system for whittling down the field to the shortlist.

James Blatch: Well, anyway it was five outstanding finalists and a very worthy winner. So great, and we’re all down for your judging. You’re going to be asked back again, do you think?

Mark Dawson: Well, I didn’t disgrace myself. Who knows. We’ll see.

James Blatch: Did you stay up last night?

Mark Dawson: No. I didn’t. It’s Freya’s birthday so I had to get her up this morning. She was awake at half past six, excited about her birthday.

James Blatch: Let’s mention Self-publishing 101, which is a course that set many of the people who entered that competition, and probably some of the finalists, onto that route to commercial success, built the foundation for turning your hobby into something that you can make money from.

The course is very comprehensive. 21 hours of instruction, and you can sign up for as little as $49. This is very commercial, but what the heck. $49 a month on a payment plan. Now, that’s available for a few more days as I speak. In fact, it’s going to close on Wednesday night, will be your last chance to sign up until we open it again in 2020. So you need to hop over to if you want to jump onto that bandwagon.

I think the next episode I’ll probably have our next live training sorted. I think we’ll probably do some Instagram, seems to be the hot topic at the moment for authors. And I’ve done two or three interviews on the subject now and I’m still not as good as I should be on Instagram.

So I think definitely, we will get one of the Instagram experts, probably Stewart, along and we’ll do a proper deep dive into how to make Instagram work for you as an author and the nuts and bolts of the of the platform as well. Right. Mark, are we ready for our interview?

Mark Dawson: Oh, yes. Let’s do the interview.

James Blatch: This is Hilary Jastram. Hilary, you will discover in this interview is a very positive person. She has a very practical, not procedural, makes it sound a bit dry, but she has a method for getting things done and moving on in life, almost regardless of some of the obstacles, and she’s somebody who speaks from a great experience in that sense, that she had an extremely difficult start in her life.

She’s used everything that she’s achieved and everything she’s gone through to help other people with obstacles in front of them. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not able-bodied for instance, but all of us one way or another probably have some obstacles in our life that we need to manage, and overcome if we’re going to be as successful as we want to be. So that’s what Hilary talks about.

She has good resources available to help you with that and organization. So let’s hear from Hilary then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat off the back of the interview.

Hilary, welcome to The Self-Publishing Show.

Hilary Jastram: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.

James Blatch: All the way from Minnesota. We’re British, so we always talk about the weather immediately we meet anybody, and it looks lovely out there. Is it spring?

Hilary Jastram: Yeah, it’s getting around to spring. We call this full spring-

James Blatch: Okay. A bit early.

Hilary Jastram: It’s a bit early so we’re going to be battening down maybe one more time, but it’s nice. I’m on the porch right now. I can’t stay off of here when it’s nice like this. I work out here. It’s wonderful.

James Blatch: Sounds perfect Hilary. ‘Ne’er cast a clout till May is out’ is the old English expression for not getting excited about an early spring.

We’re going to talk about mainly I think about nonfiction writing, but there will be elements of this that apply to anybody who’s basically a business, which is what a self-publishing author is.

And I know in our pre discussion we talked about repurposing existing content, which is a massively overlooked area by many people. They don’t realize that they’ve got books in them and they’ve got courses in them just from the stuff they’ve already done. So we’re going to come on to that with some good examples, but why don’t we start with a bit about who you are Hilary.

Why don’t you give us the skinny on who Hilary is.

Hilary Jastram: I became a writer at the age of four when I wrote a book about two potato chips getting married.

James Blatch: A romance?

Hilary Jastram: It was a romance. That’s right. That’s where my heart started. And I just kept writing. I kept gravitating towards writing.

In sixth grade, I was part of an advice column for the kids could call in or they could send you a message anonymously. I was part of a team, we would anonymously give our answers out. So it’d be something like, “I like this boy, and I’m not quite sure what it…” And we would say, “Dear perplexed,” and whatever. But it just kept going. I kept gravitating towards that.

Became a feature editor of the newspaper at high school and went to advertising and marketing school. Everything that I’ve done has been about writing.

At this point I’ve probably written 200, 300 blogs. I’ve edited 1000s more because I’m an editor also at The Good Men Project. And just the sheer amount of content that I’ve gotten my hands on has really been the game changer for me from first starting out and then now I’ve done so much more. I also wrote a novel. It only took me eight years to write it.

James Blatch: That sounds familiar to me.

Hilary Jastram: Yes. So the name of it is Killing Karl. And it’s written from the perspective of a serial killer’s wife. So this is way back before Mr. Brooks or whatever.

And in fact, when Mr. Brooks came out, I took my manuscript I threw it in the fireplace. So I thought I’m done, I’m done, Mr. Brooks came out. But my point is that, and Killing Karl‘s with two K’s.

But my point is that it’s always been ingrained in me, it’d be far easier for me to stop living, to stop breathing than it would be to stop writing or stop creating. And I have to be very selective about what I expose myself to because then my mind starts to unschool and unravel all sorts of different opportunities.

Last year I finished a book it’s a nonfiction, it’s called Sick Success: The Entrepreneur’s Prescription for Turning Pain into Purpose and Profit. And that book is quasi memoir of my life growing up because I had a very, very tough childhood.

I’ve taken those lessons and turn them around and I use them for empowerment now and I’m trying to help other people find their own signature brand of empowerment so they can walk into the fear and come out stronger.

The second half of the book is actionable content that readers can take in terms of, what do I do if I’m making a decision? I can’t even get in touch with my gut for example. There’s little trick you can do, it’s about channeling your anxiety into productivity and things of that nature. So there’s always a part of me that’s writing. I can’t shut it off. You know how that goes.

James Blatch: There’s a theme there about repurposing adversity. And returning that book. But let’s come on to that because that is a really interesting area.

Tell me about the editing. You have an editing company.

Hilary Jastram: I do. I have a digital marketing company with an arm that is Bookmark, which is an editing house. So it’s different from a publishing house. And I think this is a need that’s very niche right now.

What we’re seeing is that traditional publishing is changing. And what that means is that it’s not 1975, you can’t pitch to Random House and expect to get through any type of a meaningful layer. So you can’t get to a decision maker, you’re going to have to first get a literary agent, but then you’re going to have to pitch them with a query letter and you’re going to have to make sure that’s all formatted appropriately and written to be compelling etc.

There are actually formulas. I know this because I studied that when I was pitching my book. I actually flew to Hawaii to pitch it, Killing Karl. I was very determined. And that’s another key component, very determined.

You’re not going to get that $275,000 advance from the publisher anymore. They are built around large names that are going to be able to carry their marketing, that where the money that they put out is going to come back to them. It’s going to give them a return, a quantifiable return.

And so many people are out there and they have a lot of information to share. They’ve been in business for a while. They’re experts in their field, etc.

What happens is that they feel like that’s the only way to go. Well, if I can’t get into a traditional publisher, I’m not going to get the marketing, I’m not going to get the advance, I’m not going to be able to put my work out there. And that’s simply not true anymore.

Because at Barnes & Noble has the last physical book chain in the US. And they were just rumbling, is that the person who owns 19% of that company will potentially be looking at selling it or doing something else with it. And so we’re looking at yet another in the final large chain bookstore closing for a reason.

It’s the Amazon makeover of the world. Everybody wants it now, quicker, smarter, faster, customized. And the same is true with publishing. So it’s quite simple. I’m not a publisher from the standpoint that I’m going to take cases of books and put them in my garage and then I’m going to read your signing and I’m going to do your PR and stuff like that. I’m not doing that. I’m not registering you with the Library of Congress, simply getting you to a very well professional executed form. And in nonfiction works, particularly in business, you’re using that to leverage your existing media.

So a lot of people say, “Well, I’m going to lose my shirt on this.” Well, you’re focusing on individual book sales. And that is not where the focus needs to be. The focus needs to be on this is a piece of marketing that you’re going to use to leverage and sell additional larger ticket, higher price tickets of marketing. So that you are going to make your investment back in it.

There’s a lot of people out there who are creating content every single day from podcasts, for example. From their blogs. I helped a client complete a book that was done completely from a YouTube transcript of courses that he had made.

James Blatch: So he turned that into a book.

Hilary Jastram: He turned that into a book. Absolutely.

James Blatch: That’s what we were alluding to at the beginning, people don’t necessarily realize not only do they have a book in them, they’ve already got a book out of them, but they just haven’t turned it into a book.

Hilary Jastram: They have a book out of them.

James Blatch: There’s a couple of things I want to pick up on that. I absolutely agree the whole kind of query letter thing and for me it’s almost slave-like relationship, is like a begging letter.

I was looking at some stuff on Twitter the other day, a literary agent explaining what to say, what not to say in a query letter. And I thought you have direct access to the world’s biggest book markets now, you don’t need to bow at the feet of the traditional publishers anymore, beg them to gracefully take on your book at, by the way, 85% of the income of the cost you normally sign for them. There’s just no need for that anymore. And that’s an exciting, liberating thing.

I’m coming to the end of my first book, I’m not going to send a single query letter. No interest. I’m really not interested in playing that game. I’m going straight to the direct market, I’m going to do everything I can to be as professional as possible about me being the publisher, and I’m excited about that.

So that’s my little hobbyhorse, having read a few things on Twitter. Should keep off Twitter.

And secondly, the idea of the book, and this is crucial, that I think a lot of people in the nonfiction world don’t get right and a lot who have been successful do get right, is understanding what you’ve just said about the book being at its simplest, the lead generator. And at its most complex, a brand ambassador for you.

Everything else comes off the back of that. The online courses, the place where there’s money to be made for you in your business. So it’s an exciting area.

Hilary Jastram: It’s very exciting. And it’s exciting because you give your authors permission to not look at individual book sales. So a lot of them come to me and they’ll say, “Well, I’m concerned about this. How do I know it’s going to sell?”

I’m going to tell you what. I had a royalty check come in the mail the other day and it was for $27. But that is not the point, that’s just a little tiny stream of passive income. It’s knowing how to leverage everything.

But it’s also knowing what’s trending. It’s also knowing what’s available to you. Writing isn’t even writing anymore, which we do serve writers who come to us and say, “Well, I have a first draft manuscript.”

We do everything from content editing, which is the full monty in digging in from ghost writing all the way to proofing just for grammar, punctuation, etc. We really try to focus on those areas.

A lot of times people come to me and say, “I have an idea. I need to fully flush this out.” Great. We’ll sit down and do an outline package, and we bring it out in real time so that they understand they’re taking from such diverse topics, and they’re putting them all into this blender and they have no idea what order they need to go and they have no idea of the structure and things of that nature. And that’s actually fairly simple.

We sit them down, take them through the outline, when they’re done we send them off to do a dictation. So go ahead and do your dictation. This is what you’re going to be talking about. You approach it like a speech.

So if I’m giving a speech, I’m not boring you to death with PowerPoint, 15 points, whatever. But I am going to have three main points and under those I’ll have three sub bullets potentially, and I will speak it out.

The biggest thing is to get out from behind your own self-doubt. So I also cultivate an environment of total self love, and total self acceptance. Because there’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s writers judgment. That’s it.

And when you can exist in the same room with the judgment and say, “I see you here, you’re over there sitting in the corner. That’s great. Do your thing.” I’m still going to take action. I’m going to focus on the action. I’m not going to focus on what’s trying to hold me back here because that’s not a tool I need. It’s not even a tool.

That tool might come in handy if I’m running from a lion, but right now I don’t need it. So I’m just going to sit it in the chair and say, “That’s fine. I acknowledge you.” And move forward. Your first draft is going to be crap. I’m going to tell you right now. It is. And anybody who says, “Well, I know I don’t need an editor, I’m going to do this myself” or whatever.

I highly encourage you to give yourself permission. And this is from Natalie Goldberg’s book. This is the classic book Writing Down the Bones. You are free to write the worst crap. And when you give yourself that permission you’re able to keep moving forward. Moving forward then allows you to say, “I accomplished something.”

And then you’re building up your confidence. We do a lot of mindset work too in terms of get into the appropriate frame of mind to move forward. But also do it, this is a such a weird balance of I have the confidence to write a book but I have to be coachable enough to intake information so that I can turn out my best iteration possible.

James Blatch: There’s a couple of things I want to pick up on there. One of them is this mental trick, you talked about parking the fear, parking the self doubt, which I have to say is easier said than done.

Hilary Jastram: It is, but it’s also conditioning.

James Blatch: This is something you can learn to do?

Hilary Jastram: Absolutely. But you have to get very self-aware of it. You have to get very self-aware. That self-awareness is also a tricky balance too of saying, “I acknowledge that I’m doing things that I’m not crazy about right now.” But I acknowledge them in a way that is not threatening to my self esteem.

I can say, “I did this, I see it, but I’m not going to let that affect my self esteem.” The same thing happens when you’re writing a book, you have to be self-aware. But you also have to be self loving enough to say, “Hey, I did that. Okay, not crazy about it, let’s move on.”

You’re not going to flog yourself for it. You’re not going to browbeat yourself for it, because nothing is going to come out of that. So you’re always moving forward in a positive way. And you’re rejecting anything that is negative on your journey.

That’s where I come in. I’ve got authors that come to me and say, “I can’t get off this page. I can’t get…” And I said, “Because you’re editing.” When you’re writing, write. Don’t put on your editor hat. When you’re writing, write so that you’re allowing whatever that process to look like, it comes out of you.

And it looks different for everybody. Some people are like, “Well, I’m an outline person.” Somebody else over here is, “I’m a mind map person.” I have one client that needs to take a break and do some graphic design around her inspiration. Some people use a vision board, etc.

Whatever that looks like you have to honor that process in you and not edit it. The time for editing will come. Trust me. The time will come. And the best way to get the best possible, sparkliest version of your book out of you is through multiple rounds of editing, multiple rounds.

The other thing that I try to do is look at each book as a product because it is a product. What’s your endgame? And it is always, especially in terms of nonfiction, it’s always going to be to make money. Every single business owner, every single entrepreneur is saying quantifiably, why does that make sense to do that? Why do I want to pay you this money when I’m thinking in my head, I’m going to be in the hole but if you think that way then you’re missing out on the opportunity.

Let’s say your book is 15.99, for example. You’re not going to sit and tally up on the abacus. That’s another 1599, that’s another… But you are going to say, “I’m going to use this book to turn out my new speaking engagement where I’m talking about x, and that’s a $2,000 webinar,” or whatever.

Take a look at how you can quantify that and make your money back. There’s all kinds of mindset things that I don’t think people are really prepared for. You need a guide on this journey. That’s why it took me eight years to write that first book, but I did hire an editor. I did get a literary agent. I flew to fricking Hawaii because… And I pitched everybody. I had people from, Random House were there, Harper Collins. I was hungry for information about how to do this.

So now you can do that but you have to pivot with the times too, and right now it’s a time to pivot. It’s not the time to panic that traditional publishing is going away. It’s the time to get excited because people who otherwise may not have a voice can have a voice now.

James Blatch: That’s absolutely something to celebrate. And it stands to reason that this is more difficult at the beginning when you haven’t had any, you might use the posh word validation, but you haven’t had any success at this point when you’re writing your first draft. And I see this in other writers; they all say the second book is a lot easier than the first book because by then they can brush off some of the self doubt, they can use a practical exercise of doing that by thinking but actually, I’ve been successful and I’ve had this so I know I can do it.

When you’re doing your first draft, which is where I am, and quite a few people listening to this, is a little bit harder, because there is this vague idea that it’s all rubbish and it’s all for nothing.

Hilary Jastram: Yes. There’s that vague idea and it wants to echo in your head, and it wants to derail you. But you have to ask yourself, what is at stake? If I listen to that voice what pain is greater for me?

When we want to change our behaviors, we’re reluctant to do so because something is at stake. So what is at stake if you pull away from that idea that you aren’t good enough, that means you’re really in the game then? You have nowhere to run. You have to see yourself transparently. And that’s very scary. I think that’s very scary for many, many people.

And that needs to come with it and have a huge healthy dose of inner core self-esteem, because it’s not about what you’re putting out and how the readership is going to receive it. There is a component of that in business. You have to write the book for you at the same time.

There are multiple balance beams that you’re straddling at first. You’re going here on the self confidence beam, then you’re over here on the writing for me beam, and then we’re… Write, commit to it. So fully 100% what you want to say.

Write in terms of being persuasive but don’t let that be the only lead for you. Your goal is not to persuade, your goal is to serve. And if you keep coming back to that what you’re trying to do is provide value, you’re never going to go wrong. Everything follows service, everything. The universe is built this way.

And if we don’t get the service back directly from it, then somebody over here, some crazy wonky way will come over and be like, “Hey, blah, blah, blah, and I heard about this,” whatever. And that is your fulfillment for the service that you give. So if you focused on serving, if you focus on making sure that your readers have the best of you, you’re not going to go wrong.

James Blatch: Hilary, what sort of businesses are your clients running?

Hilary Jastram: Oh, good grief. I tell everybody, I do everything but agriculture and farming. I don’t want to do that. But the majority of them work in real estate. They work in investing. They’re international sales, business coaches, life coaches, health coaches, financial planners, lawyers, doctors. So I run a gamut of people. They’re all amazing.

James Blatch: There’s no area there that isn’t affected by the kind of digital liberation, the digital transformation for even a doctor now, with the online doctor consultations, and there’s a real thirst from the worried of learning more about health from qualified people online. There’s lots of areas.

Maybe farming is the one you should avoid, because I can’t immediately think of, I suppose there must be some gurus online who can help your yield. But anyway, that’s a part that for one moment. So that’s interesting.

Someone comes to you, and I’m interested in what you were talking about earlier about people come to you with a fully formed book.

You almost seem to me to prefer it when they come to you and say, “This is what I do. I want to get to this point.” And you can start with the raw materials at that point.

Hilary Jastram: Yes, because if you come to me with an outline, we’re going to have to sit down and go through the outline, and we’re going to extract more and put that in the outline anyway. So I think it’s absolutely fine to begin that way, especially just from the standpoint of commitment, you’re taking the time to sit down and write down the outline and you’re ensuring that you’re doing to the best of your ability with the tools that you have at that moment. And then you come prepared in that manner. But I’m still going to tear it apart like a Wolverine on an apple. I don’t know if they eat apples.

James Blatch: They must eat something.

Hilary Jastram: Right. Carnivores.

James Blatch: So let’s talk about the book itself then that somebody who might be in the online space at the moment, they might be quite simply selling themselves as a consultant or as a speaker. And they haven’t really tweaked this whole book thing.

What’s the advantage of them having a book for sale?

Hilary Jastram: Oh, it’s fabulous. So you want to use a book funnel too and which is what I’m telling all of my business people because the book funnel enables you to upsell your product, whatever that happens to be, whether it’s a webinar, whether it’s a personal coaching program, whether it’s a seat when you’re giving a speech somewhere, whatever the case is.

But the other thing that’s advantageous is you can negotiate with the venue or with your corporate sponsor. You always want to look for those bulk sponsorship opportunities. So if you’re going to speak somewhere you can say great, “I’ll speak somewhere and my fee is x. But I’m also requiring that you buy two cases of my books.” And doing that feeds directly into your Amazon bestseller algorithm as well. So it’s strategic. And it also gets your information out to your audience a lot more readily.

James Blatch: And again, each one of those books that goes out is part of your lead generation.

Hilary Jastram: Absolutely.

James Blatch: That’s an interesting little tip by itself.

When you do that type of deal with somebody, you’re asking them to buy the book through Amazon or through an online retailer, because you want the sales there, don’t you? For visibility.

Hilary Jastram: Well, you’re asking them to buy the book through Amazon but they’re going to bulk purchase it so then they can provide it to their audience.

James Blatch: Okay. Right. So let’s talk about the mindset that we referred to earlier, adversity and triumphing over them. And there’s been quite a few stories, high profile stories in the press at the moment of people. It’s quite controversial, the Neverland documentary, but I’m going to say having watched it quite an affecting thing to watch grown men who went through horrific experiences as children and have spent 30 odd years not talking about it and lying about it and covering up for the person who did it. And have eventually… And that part for me really shows you how a life can be completely transformed from a difficult start.

And if there’s a way of turning that, of somebody working with people who’ve been damaged at an early point, we use the word damage, I don’t know. And turning that into an advantage. That’s just glorious thing because it’s painful and horrible to see somebody have their lives taken away from them. So I’m guessing you’ve hinted at the beginning you had your own struggles when you were young.

This is a theme with you; not ignoring it but turning that into something that drives you forward.

Hilary Jastram: Well, it is. My struggles came from poverty, repeated abandonment, and just a lot of instability. There’s mental illness in my family. Abuse. And just really trying circumstances that leave you with nothing in terms of tools to get ahead in life. So you have to try and figure things out on your own and relationships and what does this look like and whatever.

But then, five years ago, around April first actually, the worst April Fool’s Day joke ever, I got sick. And so I have a disease called transverse myelitis, which is multiple sclerosis’s ugly, ugly sister. I have a lesion in my spine that interrupts electrical signals all day long. I lost my job, and I lost my health insurance. And in the first year of my business I was on unemployment for nine months.

My body is very odd. If we were to take a short walk, I could keep up with you. But if you wanted to keep going, if you wanted to go to a shopping mall for example, probably after about an hour, I would not have the ability to even walk because my body just shuts down.

Life is a combination of light and dark. It’s never just dark. And we can find those lessons so deeply inside the tragedy. For me, it helps to say what am I supposed to do with this? Not why me? Why me, is based in ego. I look at things like why not me? Look at the odds of this and take a look at our environment, take a look at our toxicity and all these other things.

Our fears and our tragedies are opportunities. We don’t learn as much from these groundbreaking moments as we do from the moments that nearly threaten our lives, or they shake up our value system, and we have an opportunity to get stronger there.

I do pull some of that into my work with people. And I think it’s very helpful, because I’m able to say, I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. I spent a very long time being rageful. I was so angry, and I thought, “My God, I must have picked the shortest straw in the universe.” And what did that do? It didn’t serve me at all. I kept getting the same type of energy and vibration back.

Relationships falling apart whether they were romantic or familial or friends or whatever, the self-doubt not allowing me to push myself further because I had no idea of healthy boundaries. And at the end of the day you have to forgive yourself for not knowing better.

You, in a sense are a toddler who has wandered out into the street. We’re not going to punish that toddler, we’re going to say, “Oh, okay, you didn’t know this. Now, you know this. So don’t do that, because that can hurt you.” And that is how you have to be with yourself.

It’s interesting because I now almost look forward to mistakes just the way that people purposely break things. Before they go to market they’ll say, “Okay, this is the process. This is a system I’m going to try and break this in every way possible and anticipate it.”

When you make a mistake or when you encounter something that is incredibly emotionally moving and it splits your life into before and after snapshots of yourself. Before this happened I was this person, after this happened I was this person, that is incredibly invaluable information that you will not get at any other point.

You could say hypothetically, I think I will do this if this happens in my life, or I think this might happen if this happens in my life, but you really honestly don’t know. And so when you come up against something that is invaluable information, you can use that information to move forward and handle things in a better way in your business, in your life, in your relationships and possible.

I’ll give you an example of relationships. I’ve been married three times now. I’ve been with my husband now 10 years. We’re coming up on 10 years in July. Prior to that I was married twice. Before, I had no idea what I was doing. So my current husband and I had to learn how to fight. We had to take a step back and say we both don’t know how to argue productively.

You need to be heard. I need to be heard. But what’s driving us right now is the fear that we won’t be heard, which is influencing our behavior and causing the fight to go off the rails and to escalate and up the ante of pay attention to me, pay attention to me, pay attention to me, I’m going to do more and more and more until you pay attention to me. And that’s damaging. What we literally had to do was use a talking stick.

James Blatch: Oh, really?

Hilary Jastram: We did. And that talking stick could be anything, could be like a bottle of Windex, it could be the remote control. This is all conditioning. Just as we talked about, it’s all conditioning. Any thought that comes into your mind, the biggest and most powerful thing that you could ever do is pause, the power of the pause to just say, “It’s okay that I don’t know what to do right now.”

Or maybe even doing nothing is your choice if you don’t know what to do. And so it’s okay to step back and say, “I don’t know how to do this right now. I’m going to support myself as I go through it. I’m going to support my husband as I go through it.” And as we learn how to argue. It was very funny, because it would be like, “You don’t have the talking stick. Why are you talking to me?”

And we would just start laughing. So you also have to invite that levity into your life. I think we’re so damn serious all the time too. And we’re just a bunch of bumblers on this planet. We’re bumbling around. Half the time people aren’t doing things to offend you. They’re doing things because just as you have limited tools at that time, so do they. And so we have to forgive them and say, “I know you didn’t know better.”

Since I got sick, I know there are way more good people than malicious people in the world. And so we have to give them that benefit of the doubt. Okay. You’re probably not a serial killer so you didn’t mean to do that. Great. Okay, fine. But you are a bumbling human who was just trying to get it right like the rest of us.

James Blatch: And the Internet has accentuated and amplified this, hasn’t it? Where there was a little bit of dissent and occasionally somebody who might poke you. Suddenly social media just puts all of that on tap and amplifies it and it makes it even more important that we remember that most people are good and friendly, and even if we don’t always come across that way.

I just want to step back a little bit. I know that there’ll be people listening to this podcast who have their own backgrounds that they’re recovering from and surviving from.

And again, the very powerful interviews in Leaving Neverland. And I think one of the guys speculated that there might be a point in the future where he would allow himself not to think that he was in part to blame for what happened. And that was a terrifying thing to hear him say. But I think it’s early days for them.

Do you provide any resources somebody can take advantage of or you recommend somewhere they go or some exercises people do?

Hilary Jastram: I think it’s really important to make sure that you find the right counselor for you. And understand when you’re going to a counselor you’re going to be doing work, and if you’re not ready to do the work, you are not going to receive the results.

I’ve been in counseling off and on for about three decades. I also had an eating disorder that was so voracious, that was eating the muscles in my body. And I had that for probably a good two decades, and the way that I got away from that or in better control of it was because I had to, I don’t want to say it’s getting tired of your own crap, I think that you are getting tired of pain.

And so when you’re tired of pain it’s making that commitment to say, I’m going to find the help. But it’s also okay when you go to that therapist and say, “I’m not chilling with this guy. I don’t really feel like we have this relationship.” You have to develop a relationship where you feel like what you’re being told to do, or what’s being shared is valuable to you. Because even though you’re going there as a husk of yourself you’re not fully yourself and you’re in lots of doubt.

So a lot of the times depression, for example, looks like I can’t make a decision on something. And we don’t even know where to start. “So how do I even know I’m going to choose a good counselor?” So get in touch with your gut in terms of how do they make you feel.

If you feel like, wow, they’re really missing the ball. They’re not hearing me. Being heard is very important. It’s okay to say, “I’m not feeling this, I need to move on. I need to find somebody.” And keep going until you’re validated. Right then you need that external validation. Somebody saying, “You’re not crazy. This is what happens. This is what your brain goes through when you go through trauma.”

We now know that PTSD, for example, which could be a one time event, somebody goes to a war and sees something traumatic versus complex PTSD, which is ongoing exposure to traumatic events need to be treated differently. Both of those things they create different types of reactions and responses, and they groove new things in your brain.

The other thing is that you’re not going to change like that. Don’t expect 100%. “Okay, I addressed this, now it should be done.” No. Maybe you nail it the first time because you’ve got such drive and you really want to get it right. Okay, this is fresh out of the gate. The second time, maybe you don’t do it. Maybe you get it again on the third time, changing your responses, taking that pause, because you’re ungrooving your conditioned responses in your brain, you’re ungrooving those that you have associated some value with that.

For example, when I was rageful, what was the value I associated with that, is that I had to defend myself and stand up for myself. And that was the only way that I would feel like I was worth something.

So to pull away from that I had to accept that my value lies in here and it’s not predicated on someone else, but I had to regroove it over and over and over and over again. It’s conditioning but it’s lifestyle conditioning too. There’s a lot to it.

I’m not a counselor. I don’t know if I could be a counselor, I think I would just love everybody. It’s the same reason I can’t go to the Nic-U and sing to the babies because I would be like, “Well, who needs a home?”

James Blatch: Yeah. You’d come back with them.

Hilary Jastram: Exactly. But I think there’s a huge overlap between bettering yourself, and I don’t want to say bettering, because there’s nothing wrong with the version of you. But it’s pushing yourself to know more, it’s pushing yourself to see your purpose.

Everybody thinks, well, I probably don’t have a purpose. I just have a nine to five job. I’m a mom. I’m a this, I’m a that. We are all here to help each other tell our stories and to find power from that. So I just encourage people to look a little bit more deeply and value themselves a little bit more.

James Blatch: Yeah. And finally, the area that we are in, the creatives, I guess is the overall term, I suspect it’s an environment that does lend itself to a few more headspace issues and other careers because you’re quite introspective or you’re quite vulnerable when you put you out there.

Whilst being a cop is an incredibly difficult thing, they’ve got to teach incredibly difficult thing there, surrounded by procedures and policies there, difficulties are not quite the same as somebody who pours their heart out to a bit of paper or a video or whatever and puts it out there in the public and then sits there fretting about it.

If you’ve got a small area in your mind for anxiety, being a creative is going to bring that out, I think.

Hilary Jastram: Oh, it definitely is. But you know what, this is the year of the flip side. This is the year of the silver lining.

So you can look for example, at people who say, “Well, I was diagnosed with ADHD.” Great. Do you know what else that means? You have the ability to hyper focus and be incredibly productive. I think we always have to look at the flip sides of those things. Being immensely creative means that you’re going to be flooded with ideas, and you’re tasked with picking them out and figuring out which ones are relevant, which ones makes sense going forward.

But you’re going to have to deal with it there. There are just things that you have to deal with. And you have to learn how. You have to develop a plan. When you have a plan, even as a creative like we all cling to that structure.

If I have a plan and I can say, “All right, I’m going to read this book.” I’m reading Tony Robbins’ book right now. It’s an old one. Awaken the Giant Within. And I’m telling you half the time I’m reading it I’m writing down article ideas and whatever because it’s tapping into different parts of my mind that haven’t been illuminated yet.

So you just have to allow for your process and get conditioned into saying, “This is part of it. Yeah. Anxiety.” All the time gripping anxieties. Stiff as a board in bed retching, shaking, what can I do to get present in my mind? So you say education is like the cure to fears, right? If you get educated about it.

The other thing is get curious about it. So instead of reacting and saying, “Oh, this is happening to me, I don’t have any choice.” You can get curious about it. “What the heck do I need right now that my body is doing this? And how can I give it to myself?”

James Blatch: Hilary, it’s been really illuminating talking to you. And I love your relentless optimism and positivity. A great takeaway for everyone here is to always about what are the advantages I’ve been handed as well as the, we are naturally going to see the disadvantages, aren’t we? I think, but they are there as well. And the way that you’re dealing with your own fate that’s been handed to you it’s own way inspiring. So I wish you luck with that.

Hilary Jastram: Thank you so much.

I want to put out there that I do have a nonprofit to help chronically ill and disabled entrepreneurs. In the US, six and 10 people are dealing with a chronic condition, and that includes mental illness, Cancers, Lyme disease, MS, and things of that nature. But I want to put that out there because this is the place where you can go to receive help.

And it’s really interesting, because everybody at some point in their life, if you’re not there yet, you will be there. And I’m not trying to be the harbinger of doom. But look at your Facebook post, for example, how many people are going through cancer? How many people just had an accident? How many people need accommodations.

We have to change the way that we’re working and the way that we’re thinking about the working world. So I want to make sure that’s inclusive of mental illness, doubting yourself, anxiety, depression, all of those things, that people have a place to go so that they can can be accepted and they can learn to turn that outside validation into inside validation.

James Blatch: Tell us where they can go for the not-for-profit.

Hilary Jastram: You can find us on Facebook, there’s a private group that is the most amazing, committed, engaged community of people you’ll ever meet in your entire life, and it’s Sick Biz, just like it sounds. And then you can also go to

I have a weekly podcast that comes out as well where I interview very inspirational people and people in the trenches who are making it work every single day despite their challenges.

James Blatch: Fantastic. Thank you so much indeed, from Minnesota for joining us today. And good luck.

Hilary Jastram: Thank you.

James Blatch: There you go. Mark. So good advice, good place to go, that Facebook group mentioned in the interview. It might be something that to one degree and another one as I say, we all have obstacles in our life, right? Is not always visible to people, of course, but really good advice from Hilary and I think quite a motivating interview.

Mark Dawson: My obstacle is John Dyer. He’s my obstacle.

James Blatch: It’s quite a big obstacle as well.

Mark Dawson: He’s hard to get around. Yeah. He’s pretty tough.

James Blatch: Poor old John-

Mark Dawson: We love John.

James Blatch: We love John. And most of this wouldn’t happen without John by the way, you wouldn’t be listening to anything. And it’s been fairly intense time for us.

We traveled in September. We have our launch now. We’re traveling again next month. Oh yes, I should mention that. In fact, next week, I’ll have the details sorted out, we need to make a few decisions about what we’re going to be doing in Las Vegas for 20Books. We will do something for our SPF community probably on the Wednesday night with details next week on that. So tune in as they used to say.

However, John Dyer and I as always will arrive a few days early and try our best to pick up some testimonial interviews. So if you’ve done the course, either course 101 or ads or even cover design and you’d be happy to provide a cup of coffee or if it’s after 12 o’clock midday a beer for me and John, and will turn up with our cameras.

We’ll sit down, we’ll ask you a couple of questions about what you thought about the courses and Mark Dawson’s instructional technique. If you draw a triangle from Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego up to Los Angeles, that area, Southwest United States, we have a car, we can travel. So just drop us an email support at and we’ll come and see you.

And we might host something informally, maybe in LA somewhere people can get to, not that you can get to anywhere in LA easily but seems to be a big center, possibly on maybe the Friday night but more details about that closer to the time.

It’s always nice meeting people in person. It was brilliant at NINC. It’s going to be amazing in 20Books next month Mark, because that is the biggest gathering of like minded authors in the world.

Mark Dawson: It’s going to be fun. It’s first time I’ve been to that one. I’m going to Seattle on the Saturday. So I have a day in Seattle on Sunday that I don’t have anything to do so maybe I should do something on the Sunday. I’ll think about that.

And then I’m going to Amazon on the Monday to go to the offices and meet American Amazonians I’ve been working with in advertising and the KDB team. So that’d be fun.

And then I’m jumping on a plane Monday night to come to Vegas, which I’m looking forward to, just have to think about what I’m going to say, because I’m doing a keynote speech. I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do. So I’m thinking about, are there going to be something along the lines of the talk I have at NINC, so a philosophy or advertising.

Or more likely to be something more motivational, and I’m not really a motivational speaker. I’m not Tony Robbins or anyone like that. So we’ll see. I’ve got some ideas. So I’ve go to start putting some slides together because in the meantime I’m off to Disney. So there’s a lot, I’ve got loads coming up.

James Blatch: That is soon, isn’t it? What a fantastic eighth birthday for Freya. Off to Disney World.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Disney World. So really look forward to that. But there’s just tons and tons going on at the moment with trying to juggle everything. Because we’re doing a webinar tonight as well. So obviously this goes out. It will have happened. But that’s to be done this evening too. So loads going on.

James Blatch: Well, I have a long list of things to do and including on that list is I don’t think you’ve told me which flights you want from Seattle round to Vegas-

Mark Dawson: Oh yes-

James Blatch: We need to do that today. I will get that done. But it’s always nice meeting people. And of course, next year in March is going to be our very own event, is going to be 9000 like minded indie authors all descending on London, and then hopefully descending on the London book fair to give them a bit of a shock.

Mark Dawson: I’m having some fun programming that now. So it’s all interesting stuff. We’ve got a few people that are in the bag so to speak. Two speakers where I won’t announce. Yeah. Isn’t she? Because we’ve got to be out by four. So we’ve got nine till four we then have a lunch. So that’s only what? 9, 10, that’s three in the morning, maybe two in the afternoon, so five slots to fill. So actually wondering whether I may or may not speak, we have to see. I probably will.

James Blatch: We could introduce it and you could do a sort of 20 minute wrap up here and-

Mark Dawson: Well, I’m not rapping. That’s not going to happen. I was there with Orna Ross last night and she very, very charmingly said that people would be disappointed if I didn’t do anything. So I probably will do something. I don’t quite know what I’ll do yet. We’ll see.

James Blatch: Well, just make sure John Dyer’s got a good long slot. He needs about an hour and a half to properly do his bit.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. We’ve probably got a flood of refunds now, now that you’ve mentioned that.

James Blatch: Good. Okay. Right. I think that is it for this week. Thank you very much indeed Mark from Salisbury.

Thank you very much indeed for our Patreon supporters and for you, our dear listener, thank you for joining us. It is great fun. We love doing this show. We love being part of this community.

We are going to be back next Friday with information about our get together in Vegas, and a few other bits and pieces. So join us then and an interview of, oh yeah, a good interview. I won’t preview it just yet just in case we change our mind the next week but a good interview next Friday as well. One for all of us. That’s it. It just leaves me, Mark to say finally that it’s a good bye from him.

Mark Dawson: And a good buy from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Good bye.

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