Plan the growth.Let’s expand on the baby metaphor; don’t orphan your book! Many authors get super fired up around their launch and then three months later they are on to the next thing. If you want your book to be successful, you need a long term promotional plan.

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Need To Know To Write A Bestselling Book” I had the pleasure of interviewing JJ Virgin.

JJ Virgin is the author of four NY Times best sellers, The Virgin DietThe Virgin Diet CookbookJJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, and JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook. Her most recent title is Warrior Mom: 7 Secrets to Bold, Brave Resilience. She has been co-host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, 2 years as the on-camera nutritionist for weight loss challenges on Dr. Phil, and appearances on PBS, Dr. OzRachael RayAccess Hollywood, and the TODAY Show.

She hosts the popular JJ Virgin Lifestyle Show podcast, with over 4.5 million downloads and counting. She writes for Rodale Wellness, Mind Body Green, and other major blogs and magazines.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

I never intended to write a book. I was creating programs and writing blogs (back then they were called “articles!”) but I met a writer who loved my work and suggested we co-write a book together. I learned a hard lesson with that first book that you should always work with an attorney on contracts but on a positive note I quickly saw the power of books!

What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?

I still remember walking out of lunch with an editor at Simon & Schuster after they had made their offer (my first) and twirling around the 6th Avenue in NYC! Then the bidding war for The Virgin Diet took that euphoria to a whole new high as it made me realize that I had something valuable to share and a team that would get behind me to help.

What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?

My 16 year old son was the victim of a hit and run a few weeks before The Virgin Diet pub date. I literally launched a New York Times bestseller bedside with my son in a coma.

What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?

The greatest part is the impact that I am able to make with my books. I love meeting people or having them share on my social media platforms what has happened because of my books. And what is even cooler is that it is easy for them to share the information with their family and friends. As far as the worst part — it’s the meanies and trolls who say nasty stuff on Amazon reviews when you can tell they never even read the book!

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?

I am in love with my subject and obsessed with helping as many people as possible take responsibility for their health with easy actionable tools and strategies. I never think of any of this as work.

Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?

I had an amazing mentor at 30 who taught me how to manage and uplevel my mindset — these are the techniques I share in Miracle Mindset. I also credit coaches & experts for my success and in the book space the two who made the biggest impact are my agent who is a true book whisperer and pushed me to do The Virgin Diet, The Sugar Impact Dietand Miracle Mindset(now renamed Warrior Mom) and Brendon Burchard who taught me how to get my book out into the world.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?

When the Sugar Impact Diet was coming out, my publisher was in a dispute with Amazon and wasn’t available there for pre-orders. Once it launched, it immediately sold out there (despite also being listed at full price). Constraints foster creativity and it just forced me and my amazing team to find alternate ways to sell the book online.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? What lesson(s) did you learn?

Don’t push a book out until you are ready and you have proof of concept. I like to “ferment” on a concept before I write about it — I will go and speak on stages about it to see if it lands, I will take my community members through the program and then I bring it out in book form.

What are the 5 things a writer needs to know if he/she wants to become a bestselling author?

Know your why. I coach a lot of doctors and health experts and one of the first things I hear is that they want to write a book and I always want to know why. What is the vision? What do you have to write about that is new, different, provocative and transformative?

Plan your launch. I write out my launch plan for my book at the same time when I write out the book outline. I start putting my plan in place 6–12 months prior to pub day. Think of a book like a baby — you wouldn’t start thinking about your new addition a few weeks before its due date!

Plan the growth. Let’s expand on the baby metaphor; don’t orphan your book! Many authors get super fired up around their launch and then three months later they are on to the next thing. If you want your book to be successful, you need a long term promotional plan.

Define the audience and demand. If you are going to be promoting your book long term, make sure there is an audience and demand for it AND that it fits into your overall brand as well.

You don’t need to be a great writer (or a writer at all!). I had a writer for 6 Weeks to Sleeveless & Sexy,but it was never really discussed with my publishing house so I thought it was a secret. Then when we were selling the Virgin Diet manuscript one of the questions they asked was, who do you have to write the book? I have a process for my books where I outline them, and then I speak and teach them and then I hand them off to my writer. I consider it torture to have to sit down and write but I will happily speak & teach all day long!

What are you most excited to work on next?

I have two legs to my personal brand: first, as a nutrition & fitness expert specializing in overcoming weight loss resistance and second, as a personal branding & business coach specifically working with health experts and entrepreneurs.

On my consumer brand, I am currently fermenting a concept that will change the whole way we approach dieting so that we can be successful short term to make massive changes long term. In my business side I am continuing to perfect my You, The Brand training program so that I can help more health experts get their message out to the world and increase their impact — part of my big dream of helping 1 billion people get & stay healthy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

We have a global health crisis going on. It changes by all of us taking responsibility for our own health — not passing that onto our doctor, what our insurance will cover, etc.

Thank you so much for these great insights!


  • Sara Connell

    Bestselling Author & Writing Coach

    Sara Connell is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year.