Do you ever feel in need of a boost on your publishing journey? A little over two years ago, Dr. Patricia Muehsam sent our founder, Lisa Tener, an email with the subject line “Update and Gratitude!” Dr. Muehsam shared how an author spotlight interview, much like the one you’re about to read, served as the impetus for her to take bold action.
Inspiration for Writing the Book
Simon: I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book, Beyond Medicine: A Physician’s Revolutionary Prescription for Achieving Absolute Health and Finding Inner Peace. What inspired you to write this book?
Patricia: I’ve experienced catastrophic illness in my family and in my own life, and I’ve born witness to extraordinary cures that defied conventional medical thinking. These experiences were formative teachers, and forever changed my understanding of Western medicine. I became convinced that healing beyond the bounds of our conventional biomedical paradigm was not only possible but necessary, and that healing, and navigating any and all challenges in life, could come easily, without effort.
Inspired by these experiences, I decided to pursue medicine as a calling. My intention was, and still is, to serve as a bridge and a catalyst for the development of an expanded healing paradigm—to be a conduit to new ways of knowing, understanding, and experiencing health and well-being.
Early in my career, I endeavored to change medicine from within, working as a clinician, medical educator, and research scientist. Later, I sought to reach beyond the medical community, and began to write for general audiences—blogs, articles for various print and online publications—and to offer classes and workshops. This book is the culmination of it all. My ambition is to reach a wide audience, to offer individuals a revolutionary new way to think about health and well-being and an effortless path to experiencing it.
My patients, workshop participants, readers of my writings, and family and friends, have been inspiration, too. They’ve provided the constant fuel that encouraged me along my way, that kept me carrying on, when at times, the idea of writing a book felt daunting.
Picking Your Target Audience
Simon: Who is the target audience for Beyond Medicine?
Patricia: The target audience is broad—all genders, ranging in age from thirty somethings to seniors. It’s broad because the book offers timeless and universal teachings that can be helpful to anyone, irrespective of their state of health, stage of life, or circumstances. It’s a strategy that many advised against when my book was still just a proposal in search of an agent. Even so, I persisted, and this ended up working for me.
The Guest House
Simon: What is The Guest House and why is it important?
Patricia: The Guest House is a poem by the thirteenth-century mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi. I happened upon it in the middle of a sleepless night, kept up by worries about writing the book. I wasn’t looking for it—I’m pretty sure that it found me. As I leafed through the pages, seeking some of that wisdom and inspiration, the book opened to this poem. The poem became my mentor and my muse and a reminder that embracing worry liberates us from worry, that allowing what is frees us from it.
The Guest House is our starting place for finding our way home to Absolute
Health. It’s a metaphor. But it’s also a real place. Rumi’s poem reminds us that if we
can surrender to all that is, we’re taken care of; it reminds us that it’s in the being,
not the doing, that all is well. It also describes a place that we can find within that
brings us home to Absolute Health, to peace of mind, our essential nature.
In fact, I surrendered during that sleepless night to what was, and it led me to this essential theme of the book, to Absolute Health. That nocturnal happening was one of many—more than I can count—that reinforced these notions of surrender and being here now—and that have always led me back to flowing when I’ve felt stuck.
Writing to Empower and Give People Hope
Simon: In Beyond Medicine, you discuss how we can change how we think and feel by simply being present. This place of peace can eventually allow healing to happen. Your ideas and the way you write is empowering and gives people hope. How did you learn to write this way?
Patricia: Oh, gee, thank you, Simon! I’m truly honored and flattered by your generous thoughts. Honestly, I think that I had to unlearn everything I’d ever learned about “correct” writing, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. The blogs and articles I’d been writing, in addition to more medically-oriented writing I’d done for physician audiences—these were more formally structured. And I paid heed to conventional rules of grammar. Or at least, I thought I did!
When I got to writing the book, I started writing differently. I started writing as if I were having a conversation with my reader, and he/she were right in front of me, at my computer screen. The style was more informal, and it feels more accessible. Although, full disclosure — at times I did need some reigning in, and I’m grateful to my fabulous editor at New World Library (a shout out to Georgia Hughes!) who helped to keep me flowing, but not so loose as to lose my credibility and my readers.
Simon: In Beyond Medicine, you incorporate some very helpful breathing and meditation exercises. How did you decide which breathing and meditation exercises to incorporate into your book?
Patricia: All of the exercises in the book—the breathing and meditation exercises, as well as the journaling, mirror work, and mind-body sensing exercises—are specific to a particular chapter or section topic, and it was my personal experiences with them that helped me to decide which ones to use. The book is very much a teaching memoir—I’ve struggled with bodily health issues, I’ve struggled with dis-eases of the psyche, I’ve struggled with navigating life. The exercises I offer are all exercises that have helped me find my way to health and well-being.
Simon: I especially liked the “mirror work” exercise where you have the reader talk to the mirror to help them be present with what they are feeling and thinking. Your exercises are so unique and helpful. What advice might you have to authors who are looking to incorporate interesting, unique, and valuable exercises into their book?
Patricia: Thank you for the feedback on the mirror work exercise. (I first learned about mirror work from Louise Hay, whose book You Can Heal Your Life has held a prominent position on my bookshelf for many years.) Personal experience is a powerful teacher, and as a teacher myself, my personal experiences have informed my work. If you’ve done an exercise yourself, it it’s worked for you, it lends authenticity to the practice and to the writing. If an author hasn’t had a firsthand personal experience, than the experience of his/her clients or others, can inform his/her search for interesting, unique, and valuable exercises.
Writing the Foreword
Simon: In Beyond Medicine, you have a compelling foreword written by the New York Times bestselling author, Larry Dossey. What tips do you have for authors who are thinking about including a foreword in their book?
Patricia: My advice to authors is to follow your gut, choose someone who feels right to you, with whom you resonate, and don’t worry how big a deal or how busy that person may be. Just ask.
A Little Back Story on the Foreword
Larry Dossey’s books have been fuel and inspiration for me, offering sustenance when I felt challenged to stay the course and pursue my passions. Our paths crossed early in my career, when I was involved in endeavors at the National Institutes of Health to validate alternative medical practices. When my book was still a proposal in search of an agent, I reached out to Larry for an endorsement. It took me six months to have the courage to do so! I had held him with such regard as a mentor and role model that I was convinced he was unreachable.
Fast forward to the next day, after he’d read my proposal, and he offered up the most incredible—beyond words, actually—endorsement. “….Beyond Medicine may be the only health and healing book you will never need…. ” And more.
Several years later, when that proposal had found an agent and a publisher, I reached out to him again, asking if he’d write the foreword. Again, he replied within hours, and wrote this compelling foreword.
This was a lesson learned to follow my dreams, to keep my wish list close. Larry Dossey’s words of endorsement and his foreword are truly a dream come true.
Asking luminaries for endorsements
Simon: In addition to your foreword by Larry Dossey, MD, you received powerful endorsements from a number of bestselling authors. Did you know all of these people beforehand? If not, how did you reach them or get to know them? Can you share any tips for getting endorsements?”
Patricia: I knew all of the endorsers with the exception of Marci Shimoff. My editor at NWL (also the Managing and Acquisitions Editor) knew her, and reached out. However, I did have a connection with her, because I took her Year of Miracles course several years ago. I reached out to her independently—my editor connected us—and asked her if she’d post about my book on her social media platform, which she was more than happy to do. I asked, I received 🙂 (She has over 100K followers.)
Bernie Siegel I’d connected with many years ago, but not so recently, so I had my editor reach out to him. She knew him well because NWL has published his books. Since then, we’ve reconnected and he’s promoting my book.
So the take home message for me and my advice to others is to let go of any preconceived notions you have about someone’s accessibility. Make your dream list—a wish list—of endorsers. And follow that vision. That’s how I got my #1 choice of agents. Also, think of “six degrees of separation.” We’re all connected. You just need to follow the links. Ask. Network. Imagine. Suspend doubt and disbelief (you gotta heal it to do so.) And you’ll manifest. (That’s chapter 11 in in my book!)
The Journey to Finishing the Book
Simon: Lisa mentioned there was a time when you questioned yourself and the book. How did you stay committed to getting the book completed?
Patricia: I questioned the dominant narrative about how one gets a book published—in particular, that one had to have a six figure platform in order to land an agent and a book deal. I also experienced a number of unexpected life events that interrupted my book writing process. At times I felt very discouraged.
Listening to my inner wisdom, rather than the conventional thinking about publishing, and receiving encouragement from book writing experts, agents, and my editor at New World Library, all helped me to stay committed to getting the book done.
I was told early on to work on growing my platform before even thinking about getting an agent. When I had a proposal in hand, and the next step was to get a literary agent, quite a few experts in publishing advised against seeking an agent at that time, suggesting that I first needed to have a bigger following. So I put the agent search on hold and tried to do that. I grew my Facebook following from about 300 to 1200. Yet this certainly wasn’t big enough according to the experts. I spent that year or so feeling disconnected from my writing and the book, and feeling frustrated and stuck.
As I explain in Beyond Medicine, being present with difficult feelings is our way to freedom from them, and even to transforming challenging circumstances and situations in our lives. I describe how being versus doing gives rise to “inspired action”—action that arises from the clarity and solutions that presence offers us. I walked my talk and practiced the teachings in the book and I stopped trying to grow my platform, and stopped trying to make things happen. Instead, I allowed those feelings of disconnection and frustration in, and let them be. And in doing so, they passed. Then I got a clear message from within that I didn’t need to grow my platform. Rather, I should move forward and begin my search for an agent.
Working with Lisa
Around that time I connected with Lisa Tener. She had been on my radar for several years—I was on her list, was and still am an avid reader of her newsletter, blogs, and have taken her webinars. I reached out to Lisa, seeking guidance about my book and how best to proceed. She graciously offered to read the proposal. Her feedback was enthusiastic and encouraging—she loved the central theme of my book—and this was tremendous fuel for me to keep on keeping on.
The prior year, I’d compiled a wish list of about thirty agents. On a Friday morning in May, 2019—May 11, to be exact—I started submitting to them, starting with my top choice. I made my way down to about #10 on the list that day. The next day, Saturday, I continued. And about two hours into my work, I noticed an unfamiliar email. It was from my #1 choice, who had replied two hours earlier. He loved my book proposal and wanted to represent me! And the very next day, a Sunday, my #2 choice emailed me, wanting to represent me.
Steve Harris, my #1 choice, is my agent—he is another dream come true. And pudding proof that one doesn’t have to have a six figure platform to land a top agent.
There were many interruptions along my way that slowed me down, interfering with my progress. Early on, when I was just about to embark on my book project, I had a leash accident with my dog, broke my writing wrist, and was unable to write for many months. My mother had died a number of years ago, but the time had come, during the global pandemic, to pack up her house. That took me away from writing for four months. The birth of my book seemed further and further away.
But these unexpected and unwished for events ended up being blessings, offering more personal stories, more content for my writing. And the doubts, frustrations, and thwarted progress — all of these gave me the opportunity to truly live the teachings of my book. I had to surrender to those interruptions, I had to stop writing at times, and this is how I ended up completing the book. By pausing. And it’s a better book because of it.
Important Lessons Learned
Simon: What is the most important lesson you learned from writing Beyond Medicine that you would apply to any future books or writing activities?
Patricia: It’s hard to name just one! As a writer, I learned what worked best for me: I structured my day to allow uninterrupted writing time (devices that beeped and rang were turned off). I always made my writing work the very first work I did every day.
But just as essential as committing a specific time every day to write, was the “other” time I allowed and scheduled for myself—time for meditation practice, time to visit my yoga mat, time to nap, time to visit with friends, time to play with my dog, time to be in nature, time for music, another passion of mine. (This is what I call “lifestyle as medicine.”) These “other” times were often when inspiration and ideas would come to me, effortlessly. And when they did, I noted them, so that when I returned to my structured writing time, I had that content waiting for me.
It Takes a Village
An equally important lesson was that it takes a village to write a book, a community of individuals, from family and friends, to the experts—my agent, my publisher’s experts in editing and copyediting. Every single person along the way has contributed to the book, making it better. Part of that village included early readers—friends, family, colleagues, and experts in topical areas—who read selected sections and chapters, and offered exceedingly helpful feedback.
Working with a Press
Patricia: My experience has been a wonderful one. Another shout out to Georgia Hughes, the Editorial Director and also Acquisitions Editor, who worked with me from day one, chapter by chapter, helping me to sculpt a book from a book proposal. Her editorial expertise and her keen understanding of content were invaluable. She was always available for feedback, and was most sensitive and understanding when those life interruptions forced me to pause my writing. The in-house publicist (shout out to Monique Muhlenkamp!) has been and continues to be a joy to work with—upbeat, encouraging, savvy, and full of creative ideas to get my book out in to the world. All in all it’s been fabulous a ride.
PR and Marketing
Simon: What is one major challenge that you experienced while marketing your book and what did you learn this experience?
Patricia: I’m still in the throes of public relations and marketing, so I’m not sure I can answer this question adequately. Clearly, the pandemic has changed the landscape of publicity and marketing. At the onset, this seemed that it would be a huge challenge and limiting factor, given that how the book publishing world normally worked was on pause.
However, there were numerous work arounds and abundant silver linings. I’m doing virtual book launch events/workshops, at venues where I’ve offered in person workshops in the past. One obvious challenge is that there are no book signings, no in person book sales. So we’re offering a link to the discounted book from my publisher. This may very likely yield more buzz and sales than an in-person book event would have. I’ll also be having a book launch party—a combined book reading/mini-workshop—from my living room!
Also, my publicist suggested a strategy to get exposure on Amazon: I also assembled a book launch team—volunteers who pre-order my book, receive an advance copy, and write a review on Amazon when it comes out. This has worked well so far. I was initially shy to ask people to do this, but I ended up having many more people say yes than I imagined.
Finally, my amazing agent, Steve Harris, generously introduced all of his clients to one another. Soon after I first signed with him, he organized a meet-up lunch in New York city. A second lunch followed about six months later. We’ve had one virtual meet-up since the pandemic, and have stayed connected and become networking resources for one another. As a result, I’ve gotten a number of radio show interviews and a best selling author’s endorsement. Not to mention the support and encouragement of a wonderful community of authors.
Simon: What are some considerations that authors should think about when choosing a strategy for marketing their book?
Patricia: Do what feels familiar and comfortable, yet be open to unexpected, unconventional marketing opportunities. And network, network, network. Spread the word, even organically.
For example, what seems to be working best for me is to stick with what I’m familiar with. I’ve done in-person and online workshops, so I’m now doing book events/mini-workshops virtually. I still don’t have 100,000 followers on social media, so this isn’t a huge focus. But I do have connections with people who have big followings, so I’m asking them to spread the word for me. My list is a relatively small but loyal community of social media followers, and a similarly small list of loyal newsletter readers. I reach out to them personally with snippets from my book, both writings and videos. Also, I’ve been offering free weekly webinars around key themes of the book.
I turn everyday encounters into marketing opportunities. I tell everyone I meet—even absolute strangers—about my book. In New York city, strangers can be fast friends when your walking companion is an adorable Golden Retriever! The police officers guarding the French Consulate around the corner, people who man the doors at apartment buildings, store workers, even homeless people who read books. All of them have shown an interest in my book and are helping to spread the word. A doorman nearby is now an avid fan of my YouTube channel and a fabulous publicist. I know a homeless woman who lives outside the Metropolitan Museum who sells books to survive. She will be one of my booksellers!
Patricia’s Take Home Message
Finally, perhaps the following don’t sound like marketing strategies, but these are key for me:
1) I make myself and self-care my priority. I do my best to follow the teachings of my book, thus, marketing my book is not my priority. Rather, my priority is cultivating peace of mind around it all. And trusting my gut, my instincts, and following these. Doing so has led to apparent coincidences, synchronicities, and marketing opportunities.
2) I believe in an ineffable, unseen world, a world beyond cognition and our five senses—I write about it in chapter 12!—and I put my intentions out there, to make my book available to all who might benefit from it.
About the Author
A pioneer in the synthesis of science, holistic health, and contemporary spirituality, Dr. Muehsam has distinguished herself as a practitioner, educator, and research scientist and has been an influential force in shaping the landscape of healthcare options available today. Founder and director of Transformational MedicineTM, her services include health consultations, mind-body healing sessions, workshops, classes, and retreats.