Thomas is a passionate Christian and an award-winning speaker. Online and on stage he teaches audiences all over the world. His friendly speaking style blends multimedia and audience participation. He offers audiences a unique perspective to help them use the web in a whole new way.
Well, today I have the great joy and privilege of talking with a great friend of mine, Thomas Umstattd, who is the founder of Author Media and the host of the Novel Market Marketing Podcast, which is the longest running book marketing podcast in the world, which you would never know because Thomas still looks so young, but he helps authors build their platforms, sell more books and change the world with writing worth talking about. And Thomas and I have grown to kind of know and respect one another over a couple of years now.
I actually connected with Thomas originally through some WordPress plugins that he had developed for authors. That’s where I was first introduced and then discovering that he was also a passionate Christian brother in the creative space in the book space in the digital entrepreneurial world was just so exciting. And then off the back of that, discovering what I’ve just told you that actually that pioneer spirit that rests upon Thomas is something certainly that’s inspired me, and I believe, is going to inspire you. Just as we dig in to look to encourage you in your own kind of creative endeavours and moving potentially, you might be looking to move into the digital space.
You’ve got some ideas that you believe could become entrepreneurial successes. I think Thomas has got something so incredibly precious and not just precious, but actually time tested. And I’m so looking forward to just hearing as we take some time to talk together. Thomas, maybe you could introduce yourself, say Hello to the listeners, and then we’ll begin to kind of open this up.
Yeah. Thank you, David. It’s an honour to be here. And I do hope that we’re able to encourage creative people to better serve the Lord by better serving their neighbour. It’s a great commandment expressed through creativity. Love the Lord, your God and love your neighbour as yourself. And you can do that with the work of your hands. You can do that with the work of your mind.
That’s right. And you’ve been doing it for a long time, Thomas. I mean, to be able to say that you’ve got the longest running book marketing podcast in the world is quite an accolade. Tell us, how did you get started in all of this? What was the lead in to actually begin building out your platform online like this?
So I started my first podcast in 2007 and it was about video game addiction because I was writing a book about video game addiction at the time, and I wanted the podcast to help me develop a platform. Podcasting was really different in those days. Just creating the podcast was enough to get an audience because there are so few podcasts in the world, but they’re also a real hassle to record the software, wasn’t there? The hardware, wasn’t there? The microphones weren’t very good. Back when I was a kid, it was a lot harder, but I learned a lot and I had to learn the technical bits because there wasn’t newer tools that do a lot of that for you.
So it was a really good education on how MP3s work and how RSS feeds work and how podcasts work.
Have you always been an early adopter?
I was more of an early adopter when I was younger. I spent my high school years on a Linux forum and troubleshooting Linux issues as an admin for the Linux forum. It was Lindos, if any of you remember it’s a predecessor to Ubuntu. It was Debian based Linux distribution designed for kind of regular people was the idea you’re like get your mom Windows instead of Windows. The joke is when I’m in a room full of nerds, they all look at me and say Nerd because I’m the biggest geek in the room.
So that’s definitely true. I was building websites in high school and even middle school and fiddling around with HTML. Really blessed to grow up in a town. There’s a very high tech town. So in the United States, Silicon Valley’s most famous kind of tech area, but where the actual Silicon is made is not in Silicon Valley. That’s not where the fabs are. They actually do their manufacturing in Austin for many of the things that’s where Dell computers are built and a lot of the chips are fabricated here.
And so I was blessed to grow up with all of my friends. Dads working in high tech, right? This guy works at intel or his dad works at Intel’s. Dad works at AMD. This guy’s dad works at IBM, and I would talk with my friends and talk with my dads. And when we had technical questions, it was easy to get an answer. It was easy to find help. And so we were encouraged in our nerdiness at an early age. Yeah.
I think off the back of that you were in a position at that time and also kind of gutsy enough to step in and begin to express your creativity in a space that wasn’t so full and wasn’t so saturated. I think a lot of people coming in today, Thomas, whether it be into the book writing space or the podcasting space or pretty much anything online, to be honest, even course creation things like that. I think a lot of people who are listening may feel as though, well, I’m too late to the game.
If I start a podcast, it’s going to get lost in this ocean. If I try and step up and step out and try and express myself, aren’t I too late? What would you say to those people who’ve got ideas but maybe fearful to just step out and express themselves?
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. And if I could have a conversation with my 2007 self, we’d both be selling to the other one. Now is the time to start a podcast because the 2007 would see all the gear that I have this amazing mixer that plugs in via USB to my computer and all of the gear that I could get. You can get a really good sounding microphone for $60. That sounds incredible and plugs directly into your computer. So you don’t even need a mixer.
2007 self would have been astounded at that. Why isn’t everyone podcasting? There’s a joke that we tell here in the state, said Thomas Jefferson. Right. This great luminary created a Library of Congress and somebody goes back in time and tells them about smartphones. It’s like this device has access to all the books that have ever been written in the world. You can listen to any of the music that’s played in the world. He’s like, oh, my goodness. You must be a nation of scholars. He’s like, Well, we mostly just use it to look at pictures of cats.
Thomas Jefferson would not be impressed with our user smartphone, but you don’t have to use your phone just to look at pictures of cats and funny videos on Facebook. You can use it to create. You can use it to read the great works of literature and listen to great music. And there’s nothing stopping you. And a lot of people are like, Well, you must have a lot of free time. It’s like, Well, it’s all about what you choose to spend your time on. So there you will reap and taking some of your time.
Your relaxation time and using it to create actually can be, in some cases more rejuvenating than using it to consume and balancing our consumption and our production, I think is really important.
You’ve got the Sea of Galilee, which is this healthy sea we call a Lake in the United States. It’s got fresh water flowing in, fresh water flowing out. And then you have the Dead Sea that only consumes. It’s the lowest point on Earth, so full of salt you can almost walk across it. It’s so dense. And we want to be more like the Sea of Galilee, where we’re both bringing in but also giving out and not like the Dead Sea that only takes in.
That is such a powerful picture, because I think there’s so much there literally is so much out there now, and so many of the algorithms try and just push content on us all the time that you’ve got to be very intentional to choose to kind of step away from that and become a creator.
That’s right. Because creation doesn’t happen by accident. If you are not careful, you just consume, consume, consume. And you’ve done nothing but consume your whole day. And part of what helps to be creators to surround yourself with tools of creation. So that phone is not a tool of creation. It can be, but it’s primarily a tool of consumption, whereas a laptop is primarily a tool of consumption. Sorry, creation. It’s got this keyboard that just begs you to type on it.
And it’s not very fun for consuming, right? It’s a long been a long day. You don’t want to sit back on your couch with your laptop. Laptop is a working device, right? The very design of it invites you to work. And a lot of people don’t realise that when they choose to say, got some money and I can upgrade my laptop or I can upgrade and get the new phone. They don’t realise that when they choose to upgrade the phone and get the new phone rather than upgrade the laptop, they’re making a decision for the next several years that they’re going to be more of a consumer than a creator.
And if you choose instead of getting the new phone, I’m going to get the new laptop and I’m going to start creating things with it. The consumption is going to be the less enjoyable experience where it’s broke down and it’s slow and the battery is always dying. You’re going to use the phone less and you can use the laptop more. And you’ll find that you may very well may have created more during that season.
I think consumption tends to promise a great deal, but doesn’t quite deliver on its promise oftentimes if it’s kind of over balanced.
In the Scriptures, when I’m talking with the folks in the Christian Creek Academy and other places, there are a couple of scriptures. One of the scriptures is how God rejoices in the small beginnings. And we’ve spoken a little bit about that that sometimes people feel as a man. I’m like this tiny little fish in this vast ocean. Who am I? How will my voice ever be heard? And yet the scriptures tell us that. And even when the temple was being rebuilt there and Zerbabel was kind of undertaking and some of the old school were saying, oh, man, look at this little thing compared to the glory that once was.
And yet we find that God says it says he actually rejoiced to see the work begin. And I think that that’s something to bring to people. But then elsewhere in the scriptures, it says the end of a thing is better than the beginning. And certainly one of the things. And we’ve spoken about this a little bit just in our personal conversations is I’ve certainly been impressed with both your longevity, that you’ve stuck with what you’ve committed to Thomas and your consistency in it, that you’ve actually just been there and you’ve continued to bring value where many other people.
I often joke that most podcasts have three episodes, and then it’s just tumbleweed for the next ten years. But you’ve been in this game for a long time. Just tell us a little bit about how you kind of manage yourself, manage your expectations, manage your energy to remain consistent like that, because I just think that that is such a key part of the creative life. I would certainly kind of be guilty of this on many occasions. We are great at starting new things. We love the excitement of kind of that pioneer moment like, yeah, let’s do this.
But actually, then once you get into the grind, maybe the grind is the wrong word, but sometimes it can feel like that maintaining and taking things really to the next level and bringing things to maturity takes a bit of a different mindset, doesn’t it? Yeah.
For me, it hasn’t really been a story of consistency as much as it’s been a story of persistence because we’ll miss weeks or we used to miss weeks. And there was a time I think we missed two or three months of a podcast or in a two or three month podcast window. We only did one or two episodes, but we refused to quit. And I think that for continuing to go, I think refusing to quit is really key. And there’s this concept of destination fever, where you get so focused on the destination that you don’t enjoy the journey.
And for me, for podcasting anyway, I enjoy doing it. I’ve always enjoyed radio. I remember I was a kid and I came rushing into the room to tell my dad I was seven years old. I came rushing. I’m like dad, dad, it’s open line Friday because there’s a radio host named Rush Limbaugh, and he would have Open Line Friday, and he’d play this applause sound effect. And I, as a seven year old, thought that that was real. And I got all hyped up. And I was excited because I was listening to Russian bars.
A seven year old. I’ve always enjoyed it and enjoying it helps it feel less like a grind. But, yeah, it’s a lot of work, and it’s become more work over time as the show has grown. And as the audience has grown and as the audience’s expectations have grown, the amount of man hours that go into an episode has grown. And we’re now putting between 20 and 30 hours per episode into each episode, which sounds like a lot. But there are other shows that put hundreds of main hours into an episode, and they’ve got a whole team working on it.
And I have a team working on mine. So it’s not just me anymore. I have a producer who helps prepare questions for guests and schedule guests. And I have somebody who helps edit the audio. And I have somebody else who helps convert the audio into blog posts. So it’s no longer just me anymore. And that also helps. There’s a time when you’re going alone. But there’s also a time when you need others and the strength of others and the skills of others to help you, because just because you can do something and just because you’re the best at it doesn’t mean that you should do it.
There’s a famous quote by I think it was Paul McCartney who said somebody asked me if Ringo star was the best drummer in the world. He’s like Ringo. He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles. There are other Beatles who are better drummers than Ringo, but they were better put to use singing or playing guitar because Ringo couldn’t do those things. So you have to figure out what it is. That’s the thing that you can do that nobody else can do and basically know where you fit in the body and the more that you embrace being what you are and who you are and who God made you to be, and the more you’re willing to give up control.
It’s like I’m a mouth. I really shouldn’t be grabbing things. Sure, I could grab things. And when you’re desperate, you can put something in your mouth and hold it there. But really, the hands are better at that. They can hold things much easier, much better. They don’t damage things just by holding them. And so I need to give up control of holding things to the hands and trust that they know what they’re doing. And I think that applies at sticking with stuff, having that team around you.
Has that been a difficult process for you, Thomas? Letting go. And as well, you’re talking about discovering what you can do, what you can do best and really finding. Yeah. This is my part in this enterprise. This is my part where I can best serve the body, if you like. I’m assuming that that’s been a journey for you. A journey of discovery. Yeah.
It’s been easier than you would think, but not for the reasons that you would think and the reasons I struggle with a lot of health issues. I don’t talk about them on the show, but I’m not a healthy person. I don’t have very much energy. And so the only way that I could function is to use these people. And I’ve never been a particularly healthy person my whole life. I’ve never been very healthy. And I remember talking with a CEO of a very prosperous medical company and talking about who he looked for employees.
And he said he had this matrix of people that were hard working, not hard working and people who were smart and people who were dumb. He said, people who are dumb and are not hard working. You can leave them if you want. They’re no trouble. People who are dumb and hardworking. You got to get rid of those people as quickly as you can because they’re toxic because they’re going to break things and trash your whole organisation. And then he said, the smart people who are hardworking, those are who are really good at middle management and getting work done.
And for my top executives, I want people who are smart and are not hard working, who are using the strength of others instead of their own strength. And that was a really interesting paradigm that he had that perhaps my lack of energy, at least in this season is a blessing. It forces me to lean on others. It’s definitely a blessing for others because it forces me to create jobs right? When I’m doing something somebody else could do, I’m stealing their job and they are not making the money that they could be making.
And I’m exhausting myself in a way that I don’t need to exhaust myself. And so for me, my energy is actually a more precious resource than my time. I’ve got tonnes of time, but I do not have tonnes of energy. I’m very limited in the amount of things that I can do with my energy. And so that guides my delegation. And for somebody else who’s really energetic, I can imagine it’s harder for them because they could do it for me. It’s like it either is done by somebody else or it doesn’t happen.
So I guess I should delegate it. Yeah.
You bring so much value to the table for so many people, Thomas. And I’m not just saying that that’s just a fact that in the creative space you have really sown yourself on behalf of other people, to help other people rise to help other people kind of recognise and realise their genius in numerous different ways. And I know for certain that there will be people here listening who maybe want to say, for example, start a podcast, maybe want to write a book right now. All that is is that hope on the inside.
I was just writing. I think it was yesterday or one day in the past week, I was writing about how the Bible talks about faith, giving substance to the things that we hope for, that it actually takes those invisible things and makes them visible in some way. And so there will be people here who are listening like, wow, man, I would just love to do something like Thomas is talking about. I would love to start a podcast or I would love to write a novel. I’ve got this idea for a story or a nonfiction book.
You were talking about some of the nonfiction books that you’ve written yourself knowing hit the rewind button to where say, we were all those years ago. What advice would you give those people who are wanting to come into this creative space and begin to explore the potential of actually generating some kind of income or certainly making an impact with their stories or with the message that they carry? What advice would you give them, Thomas?
So a couple of ideas. The first is I would suggest to go on some dates with your idea. And this is something I started doing where I will go and get lunch at a restaurant with me and my legal pad and the idea. And I’ll just explore the idea. I’ll just kind of jot down all of my thoughts about the idea. Some podcast episodes will start this way where I’ll just be drafting everything I know about a topic and kind of dumping what’s currently in my head on the topic onto the page so I can see where the gaps are and where I need to put some more thought or perhaps do some more research.
And sometimes I’ll go on dates with ideas, and that’s all that happens, right? Me and the idea realise we’re not a good fit. Maybe I shouldn’t get married to this idea. This is a fun date. I enjoyed lunch, but it’s not you. It’s me. We’re just not compatible. You look great. I thought you were a good idea, but you’re not as good an idea as I get that.
I think I’ve married a few in the past. What did I do that for?
That’s right. And the date can be fun. And maybe you’ll learn some things about the idea or you’ll think through it and it’ll be useful later. But just because you wanted to start a podcast on that thing doesn’t mean you should. Or maybe the actual podcast should have a different form. And then your initial idea. It takes some kind of refining to help you with that. But my other suggestion is actually probably not what you’re expecting. And it’s from a quote from Jesus. I only know it in the King James, and it is until you are faithful with that which is among other man’s who will give you that which is your own.
And a lot of people want to go and be the barnibus right away. Or sorry, be the Paul right away. And they’re not willing to be the Barnabas. And you will learn faster, assisting somebody else who’s a few steps ahead of you. And you’ll make money faster because they need help. Right. And you can learn. You can be Elisha to Elijah, right where Elisha is walking behind Elijah. He’s carrying his staff. He’s assisting him. But then when Elijah leaves, Elisha immediately knows what he’s doing. He’s not figuring things out.
He gets the mantle and the authority. But he also had the training and the experience of Elisha. Could you imagine, like sitting at the campfire and listening to Elijah tell the stories, all of the experiences that Elijah had to learn the hard way. Elisha got to learn the easy way and he was being paid or being compensated. I don’t know how it worked back then, but look for opportunities to do that. Instead of jumping straight in to making your own podcast, reach out to a podcast and be like, hey, can I edit your podcast?
Can I help produce the podcast? And maybe they’ll pay you? Maybe they won’t at first, but if you’re good, they’ll want to pay you. If you threaten to leave, they start to rely on you and you’re like, hey, I need to be compensated, and you can explore that. But everyone’s happy to do a podcast host for free. You’re not getting paid. When you start your own podcast, you’re paying money and it’s often it’s that craving of the glory, having your face on the cover, having your name on the book.
And if you’re willing to help some other people write their books first and being faithful in that role of an assistant, you’re going to learn better. And you’re going to gain that confidence. And a lot of the people who look like their overnight successes were quietly behind the scenes, helping a lot of other people become successes first. And then they took all of those skills that they gained, helping others, and then they do it themselves. Wow.
That’s such powerful, such powerful words, humbling words. I think sometimes we live in a very me centred culture, don’t we? A very celebrity type culture. Certainly one of the things that I’ve struggled with sometimes is in that celebrity culture, everything is just trumpeting and fanfares about. I’ve made this much money or I’ve got this many followers or follow me. Buy my product and you can become what I am. But they fail to tell you that they’ve been in the game for 25 years to become what they are.
Oh, that’s only one of the tricks.
Yeah. Just like this product.
There’s many other tricks.
Carry on, carry on there.
Like, for instance, they’ll say I made a million dollars. And what they won’t tell you is that they spent $950,000 on advertising to make that million dollars. There’s a lot of ways to look more successful than you really are. Yeah. And.
To remain humble and to remain sensitive in this online space, I think actually takes a lot of intention because it is very noisy once you get into it as well. All of the algorithms that exist conspire to suck you into a Whirlpool. Sometimes I found Thomas of Inadequacy. You feel because you’ve not got this following or you’re not making this much money or you’ve not got this many best sellers or whatever else it may be that somehow it diminishes your sense of worth and your recognition of just how precious what you bring to the table is and being able to shut out those voices while you do come in and offer your service, either helping others, beginning to build your own platform and develop your own skills.
It takes a lot to kind of shut out the noise and hear the Holy Ghost enough to not be diverted in all sorts of different directions and just end up running in circles.
Yeah. I think this actually ties back to where we started about loving God and loving your neighbour. And I think that the focus of tuning out that noise is to just have a laser focus on the people that you’re serving and not be worried about other people who are serving other people. There are lots of people in this world and they need help, but lots of different ways. And instead of looking at others who are serving others, if you’re just focused on here is the community. I’ve been called to serve, and I’m going to serve them.
And this is something I wrestled with because authors don’t have a lot of money. And serving authors is not nearly as lucrative as, say, serving businesses or small businesses. Right. There’s a lot of other places where I could take my skills as a marketing person, and I dabbled in that. But I never had a piece about it for some reason. I’m here with the authors. I’ve been here with the authors from the beginning. I was amongst the authors helping them while I was still in College.
And I’m still here today and focusing on them has helped. I think the people I’m called to serve, and if you don’t know who you’re called to serve, you’re not ready to start serving. I’m going to make a meal. It’s like, who are you making meal for? I don’t know how many people are they going to be. I don’t know. It’s like, well, then don’t open the recipe book yet. The approach is very different if you’re making a romantic meal for your wife than if you’re feeding a whole Boy Scout trip.
Right? Everything has changed. It depends on the audience. And if you are willing to be faithful with what God has given you and who God has called you to reach, that’s it that’s as good as it gets. It’s not going to get any better than that. And comparing yourself to others. And keeping score isn’t going to bring you any kind of happiness because there’s always going to be somebody making more money and there’s always going to be somebody more successful and with more whatever the score is.
And one thing I like about podcasting is there’s no real public, transparent scorekeeping. I’ve been really hesitant to get on YouTube in any meaningful way because of the view count. Everyone gets to see what the number of views are and suddenly your whole worth and your credibility and everything is tied to this number. And I don’t like that. Yeah.
Well, Thomas, I’ve got to say that as a member of that author community, we really do appreciate you. And we sincerely appreciate the service that you’ve offered us and continue to offer just in the creative space. It’s so much more than authors. I mean, really, you’ve impacted my life in ways that you don’t actually realise. Probably.
If people want to find out more about you, Thomas, and what you do, where would you send them? Where can they go? And I’ll put these links in the show notes, et cetera. But let us know.
Yeah. So I have two podcasts that you can listen to for free. One is the Christian Publishing Show, and this is all about writing better books, writing faster books, but also about the kind of the spiritual journey of writing. So we’re not afraid to talk about God on that podcast and partnering with God in the creation process, but also lots of practical stuff like how to get a literary agent and how to write tighter sentences. And my other podcast is novel marketing, and it’s all about growing your platform, building your influence and selling more books.
So it’s on actually taking your message and getting it out into the world. Because if you write a great book and no one reads, it is of no value, right? It’s like speaking and no one can understand what you’re saying, right? It’s just a clanging gong. The message has to actually enter someone’s head for it to have a value. The marketing is important and the marketing is also when done well can be an active service. You can serve people and bless people through your marketing so that whether they buy your book or not, they’re still blessed by your message.
And that’s what we talk about in the novel Marketing podcast. How to build a website, how to get more email subscribers. We try to keep it really practical and you can find that at authormedia. Com. Amazing.
Thank you so much for your time. What a rich time we’ve had together. So thankful. Thomas. Hey, God bless you. And I’m sure we will be dragging you back in here to speak to us again at some time soon. Hey, God bless man. Thank you so much.
Thank you for having me. Pleasure.
Well, thanks for listening. Hopefully, it’s have been an encouragement to you today. If you want to connect any further, you can do so through my website. Davidleemartin.com have a great day.