A Simple Story About the Power of Publishing Content on the Open Web

Image of Book Cover for The World's Strongest Librarian

I think everyone who has ever wanted to write a book has dreams about what publication day will be like. So far, mine has involved exactly zero groupies and parades, but it’s still been nice.

I’ve been watching this day creep towards me for a long time, and now that it’s here, I’m feeling more emotions than I can describe. Excitement and an agreeable sort of fear are vying for the top spot right now.

But sitting on top of this stack of feelings is gratitude (Sonia and Brian, this is going to be about you, so stop reading if you’re the blushing types). Just under that is a stunned sort of disbelief.

I work in a public library. I make about $40,000 a year. I’m a simple guy and I’m pretty happy if I have a book to read, some weights to lift, and I can spend enough time with my family.

I was never looking for anything life changing.

And yet, today, on Book Tour Eve, The World’s Strongest Librarian is …

  • One of Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Selections
  • One of Huffington Post‘s most-anticipated reads of 2013
  • Recently featured in O Magazine
  • The subject of a great review in The New Yorker

Seth Godin wrote about it. Steven Pressfield, an author whom I had adored for most of my adult reading life, was suddenly writing to me, some guy working in a library, to say “good job!”

All very surreal, but, to use a cliché, a bit of a dream come true.

How it came together

This dream would not have happened — at least not in the same way — without some early support and encouragement from friends in the blogging world.

Way back when, Brian Clark and Sonia Simone gave me a chance to write here on Copyblogger. They were incredibly supportive and encouraging, and that in turn gave me a chance to be seen by more and more people online.

Opportunities to write elsewhere — and to become a better writer — appeared. Opportunities to speak. Opportunities to grow. Opportunities to meet and befriend many of you who read this site.

Opportunities to develop this quality the Copyblogger people are calling Authority.

And most importantly for making progress online (and for the book), I learned how to figure out what worked. I learned how to test. I learned how to figure out my own way of doing things, without worrying what everyone else was doing.

Why not me? Why not you?

Somewhere along the way, as each new improbable development in the book deal happened, I had to stop saying “It could never happen to me.” Because, whether it was earned, deserved, or just the chaos of the universe, it did happen.

Somewhere along the way, it made more sense to say, “You know what? Why not me? Why not you? Why not anyone?”

If I could choose the takeaway from this thank you note, I would love for each of you to say, “Why not me?” Then put your head down, go to work, and keep marching forward. As Steven Pressfield said recently, Put your ass where your heart wants to be.

This has all been the result of some good luck, bad luck, dumb luck, and a lot of hard work and stubbornness. But it also, as with so many things, comes down to people who were generous when they didn’t have to be.

Thank you Brian and Sonia, for one of the many small pushes that got things moving.

And thank you to all of you who have supported me as readers and friends.

Onward!


Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube.


About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is a writer, speaker, librarian, and the author of The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Strength, Faith, and the Power of Family, which recently received a rave review from The New Yorker. He works on level 3 of the Salt Lake City Public Library, loves his job, and doesn't plan on leaving. Get more from Josh on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Josh
    Congratulations on your book.
    I always think that if someone can cut the mustard, has the right sense of direction and the right connections, writes great stuff and keeps working hard at it then success is their destiny not merely a long shot.
    And too true, you really need that support from those that have been there, such as Brian and Sonia.

  2. It has been so cool to watch Josh’s story evolve, and doubly so to see how much success his book is seeing. Thanks for letting us run this update, Josh. :)

    • Thank you Sonia, and thank you to everyone reading this. I’m heading out for the first stop on the book tour in about ten minutes, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to check back in, but if any of you have questions, please email through the blog, or find me on Twitter and/or Facebook. Good luck to us all!

  3. I’m inspired! I envision myself writing a similar I-can’t-believe-it-thank-you post one day.

  4. Hi Josh,

    You have made into reality what every bloggers dream about – to write a best selling book someday. Congratulations. Your story is inspiring!

  5. ““Why not me?” Then put your head down, go to work, and keep marching forward.”
    I think we could all use that motto in our lives. There’s that motto about the harder you work the luckier you seem to get and I think it’s true. You have to be willing to keep plugging away and recognize opportunity when it comes your way.

  6. An inspirational thank you note. Congratulations on your success and much more to come! (Make sure you journal on all the new places, people and emotions you experience on your first book tour – would love to hear about it!)

  7. Love your story, Josh.

  8. Congrats on your success. You have inspired me to keep working hard to get the desired result.

  9. I bet you do have some groupies who are hiding in the stacks at your library, whispering and giggling (quietly) when you walk by, trying intently to get a glimpse of the book you’re carrying.

    This is a beautiful story you’ve told us about you and your book. How cool is it that a strong man-writer-librarian gets a nice long review in the New Yorker?

    Go, you- terrific, fantastic, admirable, inspiring job.

  10. What a great story, Josh. And big congrats on your success!

    It’s always the coolest thing in the world to see one more example get added to the heap of the seemingly impossible or highly improbable become a reality. It becomes a beacon for others to navigate by when all the usual fears and doubts creep in when we’re trying to accomplish that thing we really want to do.

    My own thank you to Brian & Sonia doesn’t look as grand (at the moment) as your success story. But I’m no less thankful to them for the awesome opportunity they gave me to write for Copyblogger and the many cool opportunities that have come about since.

    Really inspiring!

  11. Congratulations on your success, Josh. :-) You have a great story and thank you sincerely for being willing to share it with the rest of us. Have a great time on your book tour.

  12. This is amazing, Josh. I’m so happy for you and appreciate the story you shared. Every career is built on a bunch of blocks — hard work, fortune, perseverance, and yes, the help of good people. God bless and enjoy the tour!

  13. So awesome to hear about your book doing well Josh! Thank you for sharing.

    Maybe someday you’ll post some more details about the journey here?

  14. Congratulations! What an inspiring story!

  15. Way to go; good for you! I love how the Internet levels the playing field. If any of us have something interesting to say, there is a chance for us to be heard thanks to social media and content sharing. Bravo, I say, bravo!

  16. Hooray! This whole thing must seem so wonderfully surreal. Today Copyblogger, tomorrow the NY Times bestseller list. :)

  17. YOU ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Huge inspiration to so many people. May you have great happiness and success in your life! : )

  18. Inspiring story! Best of luck. I’ll have to check the book out.

  19. Thank you for being you, Josh. Your story inspires all of us.

  20. Congratulations on the success of your book!! And I agree that generous people make all the difference.

  21. Congrats on your book. In all my new ventures I try to keep my eyes down and work hard. Someday one of my idea will stick but working hard is the most important piece of the puzzle. Looks like you did things the right way!

  22. Incredible!! Brilliant work with the video, as well.

  23. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book, was able to read a nice chunk on my flight, and I’m loving it. A great story, told with style.

  24. Wonderful stuff ;-) Tx for sharing.

  25. Kitty Kilian :

    Hi Josh,

    I have Tourettes too- I am going to get your book and read it. I am very curious to know how weightlifting helped, although I don’t intend to try it out myself;-)

    Thank goodness for understanding parents and teachers!

  26. Thanks for sharing, Josh. Nice bit of inspiration on Friday morning. Could you share a couple of your most useful learnings from testing?

  27. I love that you also work in one of the most beautiful libraries in the country. My family recently traveled around the country for a year, and we were amazed by the SLC library!

    (Congratulations.)

  28. Happy. Happy for you.

    When my first book came out, I slept with it every night. It is such a thrill.

  29. I really think that more people would have more self belief about what they could achieve in book publishing if they just started out with something simple. I have only just published my very first book called “33 ways to make money online” and I did it through Createspace.

    Even though it is such a small book, and such a relatively simple book to create (it took me up to 10 hours a day for a week, but then maybe I am a slow writer!) it still counts as a stepping stone to writing the bigger books that I would like to one day publish that might just be regarded by many others as a true success.

    I would certainly recommend that anyone doubting there own skills start off small with a more basic project that does not feel outside their reach, and then just maybe one or two of use might achieve your fantastic result, at least to a certain degree anyway.

    By the way, I hope everyone continues to feel as inspired by this post a day or so after reading it, because no matter how motivated people feel when they first read this, when it really counts is when you are actually facing that blank notepad file awaiting your words!

  30. If you want to be successful sometimes you have to sell your content for free.

  31. Josh,

    I really loved watching the video in this post and the fact that the heroes are your family and friends. Such a touching note with a whole lot of truth attached.

    Loved it.

    Sue

  32. I just published my second book, “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy.” My father’s death in 2010, my own age, “late 40s, and my resolve to leave a legacy for my 8-year-old daughter were all motivating factors in my blogging and writing journey. It’s very easy when we put our minds to it. That’s not to say there’s not a lot of work. I’ll continue to write for years to come. http://www.danerickson.net

  33. Archan Mehta :

    I have been following your work for some time. I have found your journey to be amazing. You are a good writer and it has been great to read your work.

    Slow and steady wins the race. And it is great that you found kindred spirits to help you reach your goal. A little nudge and a push and you are on your way. Congratulations for your commercial success too.

    Librarian: I am glad you have found your calling in life. Most people struggle to find what they are looking for, but you have found your ideal profession.
    That itself can be inspiring to a lot of people. Have a good one.

  34. Hi Josh, It’s nice to have a book published regardless if people are banging your door down for an autograph or not. I think it brings a sense of credibility in the niche you are in and gives your readers a glimpse into the fact that you really know what your talking about. Can’t hurt your resume either.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Elaine :))

  35. Josh, Just wanted to say thanks on building such a great fanbase here. Your write ups have given me the ability to more easily pick stuff apart so I can make things work better together.

    Take care and best wishes

    Your NEW fan

    Beth :))))

  36. Josh, you mailed it my friend. I have been stopping by reading and I finally wanted to make a comment to let you know how imressed I am with your writing style. You make complex topics easy to understand. The mark of a good writer.

    Thank you, Denny

  37. A simple story and good content always get more traffic on your website. I love book reading and writing new simple story content and publishing on new web.