With Superfans coming out tomorrow (what?!), I thought today would be a great time to go over the backstory of the book and how far it’s come. It’s a story I haven’t yet told in full, so here goes!
“You Should Turn That Talk into a Book”: How Superfans Came to Life
The topic for Superfans was validated through a presentation I did at New Media Expo in Las Vegas in 2014, where I spoke on stage about the powerful idea of converting your casual audience into raving fans. The presentation went really well, and it opened the door for me to return the next year in 2015 as the closing keynote speaker. It was my big Back to the Future-themed talk about future-proofing your brand, the one where I brought a Delorean on stage after showing a short film tribute to BTTF I’d made.
After that presentation I continued to get requests to speak about the topic of how to create raving fans, which was a good sign that my talk was resonating with a lot of people. I was constantly seeing that this was what people wanted and needed to hear, especially with SEO and social media advertising becoming more mainstream. People were often forgetting about the human-to-human aspect and the idea of building experiences for people after they arrive at your brand, not just how to get them to find you in the first place.
One of the later occasions where I gave this presentation was at Social Media Day in San Diego in June 2017. It got rave reviews, and one of them was from a speaker, creator, and genius marketer named Jay Baer. After my talk, Jay came up to me and said, “Dude, Pat, that was such a good presentation. You have to turn it into a book.” I said, “Yeah, I’ve been told that before, though I’ve never really given it any thought. But coming from you, that means a lot because you talk about this stuff all the time.” To hear that advice from Jay Baer, who I respect highly, was a huge boost.
That was the moment that kickstarted the idea for Superfans the book.
To Ghostwrite or Not to Ghostwrite?
I was ready to get to work on the book right away. But I quickly started worrying that I wasn’t going to have time to write it myself, because I remembered what writing Will It Fly? had been like. At that point, it had been just a year since the launch of Will It Fly?, and it was still painful to think about how difficult and time-consuming the writing process had been. I’d hired a coach. I’d gone through a number of scrapped manuscripts and drafts, and it was really scary to think about doing that again.
A friend of mine who’d written several books suggested I hire a ghostwriter. I told him I was reluctant to do that because I was worried about the book not feeling like it was coming from me. The friend said, “Well, there are companies out there that will do these really in-depth, extensive interviews with you to pull the story out, create an outline, and form the book using your voice. And with you being a podcaster, this should be pretty simple for you.”
This person had successfully used ghostwriters to create some bestselling books of his own. I thought, “Wow, this is a good idea, and if I can have the story come from me, then I think I’d actually be okay with it.” Rather than having someone write something and just slapping my name on it, I could put my name on it in a genuine way.
Getting Started with a Ghostwriter
So I hired a company to help me ghostwrite Superfans. (I’m not going to name it because they still do great work, and I don’t want to call them out.) We did three months of extensive interviews starting in August 2017. We went through an extensive outlining process, along with deep interviews about each of the stories and chapters that would go into the book. Then there was a waiting period to get the first sample chapters.
I had been very happy with the process itself, and I was excited to see the results. Then, in January 2018, I got the sample chapters and . . . I wasn’t happy with them. A lot of the stories just didn’t sound like they came from me, although I knew they had! The way things were worded and structured just didn’t feel right. So I did another go-around with another writer.
But again, it just didn’t feel like me. To this day, I don’t know if it was because I knew that I didn’t write the chapters, that I didn’t think they were good enough, or maybe they just really didn’t sound like me. I’m not sure. I just know it wasn’t what I was looking for. At that point, I became really intimidated by the whole process and decided to let the book sit for a while.
After letting things sit for five months or so, in May 2018, we decided to start again—not from scratch, but using the outline from the first round, plus another set of interviews with a different writer to see if that would change anything. We got through the interviews a little more quickly this time, about a month and a half. And then in July 2018, I got my first manuscripts back.
I had the exact same feelings and results.
Now, I’m not trying to bash ghostwriters or this company. I know a lot of people who have successfully used ghostwriters, and even this same company, and have been happy with the results. But I just took this as a sign that if I was going to write this book, I’d have to write it myself.
NaNoWriMo to the NaNoRescue
I realized I’d have to write Superfans myself. But I was still really worried that I didn’t have the time, with all the courses that were coming out and the SPI team restructure that was happening. There was just too much going on.
Cut to October 2018. Some of my friends who are also authors were chattering about the upcoming National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge in November and invited me to participate. I said, “I don’t know. Superfans is probably the book I would write if I joined. But I’ve given it a couple tries already, and I’m just feeling deflated.”
But they turned things around for me.
They said, “Pat, you’ve gone through two different sets of interviews. The outline is done. Just write, and do a little bit every day. If you want, you can even use your social media channels to hold yourself accountable.”
So that’s exactly what I did. Starting on November 1, I wrote every single day, and kept track of how many words I wrote. It was a slow start, but it helped that I had the outline already done. I didn’t finish 50,000 words in November, which was my goal, but NaNoWriMo got me going. It was 99 percent finished by mid-December, but I was tweaking and was challenged by my team to turn it in at the beginning of the year (January 2019), which I did. I was so glad that I’d gotten it done. And I was happy with the way I’d written things. It wasn’t perfect, and a first draft shouldn’t be. But I was excited to continue moving forward with the book. I was even starting to visualize it in people’s hands.
Creating a Book You Can Be Proud of Is a Team Effort
With the help of Team SPI, we shaped my rough first draft into the end result you’ll see on bookshelves and in your mailbox on August 13. We worked together to finalize the book’s structure and flesh out the material in each chapter. The team’s “hive mind” also got to work, helping to source additional anecdotes and examples to illustrate the audience-building strategies I share in Superfans.
Although the strategies and stories that make up the core of the book came from my own experience, Team SPI helped me develop the book into something really special. This book was definitely my baby, something that has the unmistakable mark of Pat Flynn. But it was also a team effort.
If you’ve ever written a book, you know that your first draft is never the draft you publish. In fact, it’s usually pretty far from publish-ready. That was true for Superfans—my first draft had the skeleton of a great book, but it wasn’t a book yet. (And that includes design—more on that in a moment.)
To FlynnCon and Beyond
Back in January when I handed my team that first draft of Superfans, I asked them, “How soon can we get this book out?” They said, “How soon do you want it out?” I thought about it.
“Well, it might be kind of cool to have it out by FlynnCon.”
And that’s what we did.
By the way, thank you to everyone who attended FlynnCon! It was an amazing experience. And FlynnCon attendees were indeed the first people in the world to get their hands on a copy of Superfans.
But, rewinding a bit . . . That was our goal, to have Superfans ready by FlynnCon. I submitted the first draft of the book to the team in January so that we could get things moving. Then we connected with the team over at NEWTYPE Publishing. NEWTYPE’s model is not print on demand, but kind of a hybrid publishing model that lets us create a really high-quality book that can also be distributed to stores beyond Amazon, like Barnes & Noble and Target. We finalized our contract with NEWTYPE and got a timeline in place to have Superfans ready and up on Amazon for pre-orders by May.
(As many of you know, I’ve been pushing the preorder pretty hard to hopefully have a really big launch week. Many of you have helped support it, which is amazing, and thank you for that. And if you’re reading this before August 13, you can still preorder the book if you haven’t yet! Just go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Target. Plus, if you submit your receipt at yoursuperfans.com, we’ll send you a copy of the Superfans audiobook for free!)
Okay, a little bit more about the book writing and publishing process. We submitted the final manuscript in May. Then in June I recorded the audiobook, and we even made a little video of me in the audio studio talking about the process.
The final thing I wanted to share today is the Superfans cover design. We started brainstorming the cover design and subtitles way back in January, and the actual design went through several iterations before we landed on the final version.
Here’s the print proof of the dust jacket as shown on Instagram right after I received it. It was so exciting to get my hands on it!
If You Have a Story in You, Get It Out
Friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little journey through the writing and publishing process of Superfans. The book is live for pre-orders now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Target! Plus, we’re even going to be placing it in some airports later this year. So if you see it out in the wild, please take a picture and @-tag me to show me where you are!
If you want to share Superfans with someone because you think it would be useful for them, please do so. And if you’ve already picked it up and read it, please leave an honest review on Amazon. That would be super helpful!
Thank you once again, Team Flynn, for being amazing and helping to support this book. It’s been a long road, as you can tell. But a lot of things have happened since November when I sat down and started writing . . . and that’s the big lesson I have for you here. Whatever it is you know you need to do, you’ve just got to sit down (or stand up) and do it.