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A writing podcast for coaches
Writing coach and applied linguist, Dr Lizzy Tanguay chats with guests about everything you need to know about writing for your coaching business. Subscribe now for weekly writing tips, tricks and motivation.
Blogging, habits and living a life that lights you up. A conversation with Stephanie Rose, founder of Firefly Scout. – talk.write.done. A writing podcast for coaches.
- Blogging, habits and living a life that lights you up. A conversation with Stephanie Rose, founder of Firefly Scout.
- Confident email marketing with Million Dollar Story Boss, Jayati Vora.
- Publishing a self-development book. Interview with Caryn McClesky, aka Publisher in Your Pocket.
- Publishing workbooks. A conversation with author and publisher Kim Smith of Unbelievable Freedom Books.
- Welcome to the talk.write.done podcast
Episode 3. Publishing workbooks. A conversation with author and publisher Kim Smith of Unbelievable Freedom Books.
So Kim, over to you, if you’d like to tell us a little bit about yourself, that would be great.
Yeah, well, it’s been really truly an evolution of one thing into the next. So my husband and I had a big weight loss journey. We gained 200 pounds in the first decade of our marriage. And then we took the 200 pounds off again.
And in the course of that weight loss, we gathered a community around us, we had 10,000 people in a Facebook group. And they asked for a book, they wanted to know more of the backstory and what had gone on before they, came to know us or met us online. And so we just put together a little self-published memoir with no expectation of anything other than to just create the book folks were asking for.
And it took off and did really well. We sold 900 copies in 10 days. And I had been feeling a real itch to do something entrepreneurial. So I just used that little nest egg of money and left my job. So that was three years ago. And the writing and the self publishing have just come out of my continued desire to make things and sell things.
So I did a second book. And then I had created a series of motivational emails, it was basically a mentoring course by email. And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to just bind up all of these messages into a workbook with some space to to journal, some dot grid pages to make notes on. And after I did the first workbook, I enjoyed that so much, I made a second. And then I started to think, well, maybe I could create a more robust series of books by collaborating with other authors. So I started to work with friends and connections that I knew that had other areas of content expertise that were different than mine.
So as far as the workbooks, I’ve worked in two ways, I’ve, I’ve collaborated with people to use their content in almost a work for hire the way a publisher does to buy that content and put it into my series. And other people have worked with me just to learn the how to, and they’ve taken their own book and gone and done whatever they may choose to do with it.
I don’t work as a coach, specifically, but people who do like to have a book sometimes to use as a tool to engage their clients and to attract new ones.
What was it particularly that made you think about doing the publishing yourself and starting the publishing house?
It’s funny because I didn’t realise until after the fact. And now I’m learning about what really is required to put a proposal together to try to sell the idea for a book. And I’ve watched friends do the process. And it’s taken, you know, a year to a year and a half to get a book into the world. And this our successful self-publishing effort, you know, took four months, because we just decided to do it, we had had no expectations. But what still attracts me to self publishing, as I am learning about both worlds is that control over the timeline, you know, the publishing world just moves very slowly, and I like to work fast. That’s what’s led me to have the team titles and then a little over close, coming on two and a half years, I guess.
We really didn’t consider trying to sell the book idea to a publisher. We just we knew someone else who had the book that it inspired, our weight loss had been a self published book, and the author of that book was saying, there are no gatekeepers, if you want your book, put it together, you know, have it formatted and edited, professionally, have a cover done that looks professional and click, click, click, it’ll be on Amazon and people can buy it.
And that is what happened. And it gave me a little bit of a false sense of how easy it is to sell books. It’s not easy to sell books, none of my titles since have come close to what the first one has done.
But cumulatively they they chug along and they are selling but there’s a lot of work to go that goes into the promotion. So I think naivete is what let us get that book out there so quickly and easily. And I’m grateful we had such stars in our eyes about just helping people and spreading the message about our story.
We ended up being featured in a Korean documentary, and then we sold the Korean rights to Unbelievable Freedom, our first book, so we’ve got a book on bookstore shelves all across South Korea, that never would have happened if we hadn’t just been acting in such a kind of trusting and faith filled way.
That’s really inspirational, isn’t it? And I just think the fact that you obviously so passionate about your message and just wanting to get it out to as many people as possible that’s, you know, just such a big part of it, isn’t it?
So I’ve got a couple of questions from the group. Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows or someone would be surprised to hear about.
Well, this is usually I where I dropped the little zinger about the 200 weight and weight loss because I know surprises people, I think people would be surprised when they see how willingly I’ve put my creative work into the world, just how much self doubt I’m plagued by. And despite that fact, I continue to move because I’m really fearful of getting stuck.
You know, my weight was only a symptom of my struggle that was more more mental and emotional, and I don’t want to get stuck. So I just stay in motion. And I keep throwing things out there and some things fail. But I think some people who perceive my confidence would be surprised to know how much that is showing up every day and mustering it up.
I mean, that’s just such a good message for all of us. Here, I think as aspiring writers and that’s something we talk about quite a lot, this imposter syndrome. So that’s really helpful to hear. Thank you. And just getting out and just doing it anyway. Despite those fears.
But I think that it’s important, you know, one of the lessons that I learned from our project with unbelievable freedom, it’s a little 100 page, mini memoir, slim little book, I wrote half the chapters, my husband wrote half the chapters, we wrote them in alternating first person voice, that book is far from perfect, I mean, we did get help with the editing and formatting, we know, we could rewrite it and make a stronger product, if we were to redo it.
But it hasn’t stopped it from helping people, it hasn’t stopped the book from travelling like magic, opening people’s minds, giving them just a little infusion of inspiration to think differently, or try something differently. So as I’ve worked with other authors, and seen a variety of working styles, I try to always bring people back to the idea that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be impactful. And while you want to be, you want to take pride in your work, if you get stuck on needing to make something perfect, you’re holding something back that somebody could be helped by. So I’m a big believer in, you know, doing your best and then and then letting it letting it fly. There’s freedom in that.
That’s so important isn’t that, you know, just some point, you’ve got to get out the door. And that’s the thing, isn’t it? No one is born, knowing how to write and we all have to learn and go through that process.
As I said, it doesn’t need to be perfect. Everything can always be improved. Wherever you write can always be better. I look back at some of the things I’ve written that in fact, I try not to, because you’re always gonna see something. But as you say, it doesn’t stop that from helping other people, if you’ve got a message that you can get out to the world.
Well, you’ve talked a bit about the books you’ve written, you talked about the first book you wrote. Could you tell us about your later books?
Of the current 14 titles in the workbook series, I wrote four of those, then I wrote a book of contemplations—it’s a sort of a devotional style book—after Unbelievable Freedom. And then I’ve just created two journals that are very low content books. So I have eight titles on Amazon that are in my primary authorship.
And there’s Poster Girls Habits, which is perhaps a really nice model for everyone if you could talk about that.
Yes, I’d love to talk about it. So it came out of the fact that I went from the co authored book with my husband to this devotionals this book that I’m rewriting as we speak.
So I bound my 33 motivational emails about my weight loss journey into a workbook simply because as a person trying to generate cash for the business, I thought, I need to put a workbook together. And as soon as I had the first workbook, I wanted a series. And as soon as I decided I want a series, it’s like, well, if you have one workbook and you want a series, you need a second workbook. And so I thought, well, what else could I write about? Poster girl, the poster girl for contentment is a persona that I adopted. After my weight loss, after my kind of spiritual shift and transformation into someone practising contentment as kind of a daily effort, intentional effort, I became the poster girl, I claimed that and so that workbook is about the things that I do every day to stay in a contentment flow.
And there are a few things about my physical habits, but it’s also about collecting easy delights. You know, my grandmother is a role model for me. My grandmother was easily delightful, you know, she was delighted and in the littlest things. And so after her death, I started to learn how to train myself to be easily deightabe. So collecting easy delights is an everyday things that I do. And sometimes it’s with documenting with photos, and sometimes it’s journaling. And sometimes it’s just taking mental mental pictures, but collecting the delights, having everyday rituals, you know, creating micro rituals.
Every contented person has them whether they talk about it that that way. And then the last poster girl habit is editing which is adopting a willingness to edit any aspect of your life that’s an obstacle to your own contentment.
So, again, this book is everything I do is from my grandmother, every my whole my whole life is in honour of her legacy. When she passed away, she was 95. And her parting wish for me was—enjoy your life. So at the time that she died, I was doing anything but enjoying life and that was a puzzle.
And I set out in pursuit of what life enjoyment means what she might possibly have wanted for me. And then by those words, and my late my weight loss was one small part of an entire transformation that I continue to talk about, write books about create workbooks about and this whole, this whole Unbelievable Freedom, enterprise, all flowed out of my grandmother, leaving leaving this world and leaving me with three words—enjoy your life. So that’s the poster girl. And that’s what that’s what workbook number two is about.
One of the other habits in there was expectations. I wonder if you could tell us a bit about that.
Yes, expectations. And in other places I’ve written about it, as you know, it’s a thought management practice, it’s taking your automatic negative thoughts and flipping them into affirmations. Basically, expectations as a habit is that when I wake up and face the day, move into the world, I expect to be contented. That’s my expectation, because contentment is what I deserve, what I’m capable of. And that’s the mindset piece of poster girl habits is having the expectation that contentment is inreach, achievable.
As I say in the description of the book, my grandmother was such a contentment role model for me and I perceived her contentment as flowing from her faith and from her spirituality. And while I consider myself spiritual as well, I try to say in that book, I don’t think that contentment is only for people who are super spiritual is for everyone. By being contented, you’ll access your spirit in a better and more easily accessible way.
Great, thank you. Okay, so coming back to writing again. You obviously enjoy writing— are there any tips that you can give to us about writing, as people who want to write more?
I’m right there with all of you in terms of, we’re all travelling in the same circles on Facebook and seeing the advice and trying to learn from one another. And one of the things that I’ve done in the last few years, not just with my writing, but with everything is trying to give myself permission to work the way that works for me, because one of the things that really was a roadblock to me in not exploring my writing for a couple of decades, and not doing a lot of other things I want to do is this idea that you have to do it like this. And if you don’t do it like this, you’re not doing it right. So you shouldn’t do it at all. And so my way of working, I am gently trying to have more of a ritual and a practice around writing.
But what I’ve done in these couple of years that I’ve been so prolific, at least in creating products, is to work in big bursts. Like sometimes I just get really consumed with something and I’m just like writing multiple times a day, every day for days on end, I wrote Admired, which is that devotional style book I wrote, after unbelievable freedom, I wrote every day for seven weeks, I started from an outline to that book being self published on Amazon in seven weeks, but I was consumed with it during that time. And I love feeling that way. Like don’t want to eat or sleep just want to do my project. But then I didn’t do any writing for for me a long time. For me, it was several weeks after that, that I didn’t write at al.
People will say that wasn’t a very creative—a dry spell. But you know, I am trying to give myself permission to be in the flow of what’s really consuming me sometimes that’s I really need to do more administrative task type work for a while to kind of rest the the dreamy part of my mind or my my way of creating and then other times I want to just, you know, be in the notebooks just be doodling and making lists and chicken scratching things and drawing arrows and, and being you know, but I give myself permission to explore every idea that I have.
And so, in writing or collaborating on 18 books, that’s a small fraction of the ideas that I had, you know, some ideas just don’t, don’t pan out, but I follow them all to see where they’re going. I mean, we’ve conceptualised multiple children’s books.
Ryan my husband is like half jokingly going to do a Hardy Boys type series we bought 100 ISBN so if you get in self publishing, you know, you purchase these international numbers to register your your books with and you can buy them 10 at a time but after we exhausted the last ones, we said well let’s buy 100 So now we have 100 ISBN numbers. They’re cheaper in bulk but were still several $100 of investment.
But now we have this freedom of well, hey, what what do we want to create because unless you look at it as cluttering up the digital landscape, there’s really no harm in self publishing a book that people don’t buy, if you don’t let it devastate your heart and, and break your spirit. If you create a book and nobody buys it, it’s a print on demand book, it’s no trees had to die, it’s not going to fill up a warehouse full of books that nobody wants. It’s just an idea and something you’ve put out there to participate in magic and co-create with the universe. And if it doesn’t catch on, you can just do something else. You know, that’s, to me, that’s the fun of self publishing. And that’s, that’s what, that’s what we’ve done with it.
Yeah, I just love the fact that you’re just obviously having so much fun with it, just let’s buy these numbers and see what happens. And you know, we can try writing this kind of book. And if we don’t like it, we’ll try something else. So I think we’d really like to know about, you know, what kind of people you work with and how you help them. Let’s start with that, who the people that come to you.
So I have meandered around, you can probably tell that I like to follow my curiosity, change gears frequently. So I created my workbook course, which I called the workbook project last year during the initial COVID lockdown, so it’s been just about a year. And what I wanted was if somebody came to me with an idea for a workbook for the series, and it didn’t fit, like they wanted to write about collecting antique stamps, or the history of such and such are they wanted to do something with my template, but I didn’t feel like their content was on brand, or it didn’t resonate.
For me, I wanted to have a place to say, Well, why don’t you take this course and do the book on your own? And let me know if you have questions. So a couple dozen people have gone through that course, some for free as beta testers, some have purchased it, I’ve offered it at a discount to many people that I meet in these travels, and a couple have finished a book, a lot of people are still somewhere in their process
But that course exists. And that is one way for somebody who wants they want the creative control, or I guess I should even say the business control of publishing their own book, managing their own dashboard, collecting their own royalties, because the people who collaborate with me don’t do all that. They give me the content, I collect the royalties, I pay them out a percentage, if and when the book hopefully sells much more like a traditional publisher does.
So it’s two pathways to either, you know, work with me briefly through the course, and then a distance learning kind of way and then fly free, or the few authors who have worked with me on the series who know me from some context or another, were theoretically in a business arrangement till the end of time. I mean, things change fast. But some of my friends who have collaborated, coaches who have collaborated on the other workbooks, you know, they are actively working with me to promote those books, they promote them in their communities, I promote the whole series, we split the money when the books do sell.
Where can people find out about your course and you?
So my website is unbelievablefreedom.com. It’s forever changing. Every time I always tell people, it’s just the version that you’ll see right now. You know, it was started as a weight loss website with lots of before and after photos of our weight loss. And then it was mostly focused on the first book. And now it’s focused on my two series, which are the habit guides, which are the workbooks, which are a little content heavier than now I’m starting to do the journals.
And the journals are simply some very light, inspirational prompts and a lot of blank space because I wanted an even lower price point item, because the businesswoman side of me is just trying to create things somebody will buy. So I can keep making more things like I’m like the artist who’s just like trying to create a painting someone will buy so they can pay their rent, they can just keep painting. Like I love making books. The thing that I need to strengthen in my overall business model is my willingness to stay with the books and keep promoting them because to me, they’re, they’re things I already made and they’re in the past, but I will tell anyone who’s thinking about self publishing, barring a lightning strike of luck, your book is only going to sell if you stay with it.
So I did spend two years promoting Unbelievable Freedom, going on other people’s podcasts showing up in many many intermittent fasting communities, sharing my before and after pictures and talk to people about my jean size and what I ate for dinner until I just couldn’t, couldn’t do that anymore.
At this point, Unbelievable Freedom does still sell miraculously because it’s got algorithmic traction on Amazon, but I don’t really promote it anymore because I just got weary of even though my weight loss story is inspirational and I hope people that want to change their health, use it in whatever way it can serve them. I didn’t want to be pegged as a weight loss influencer person—that did not resonate for me at all.
If someone’s listening to this and thinks they might like to write a workbook about th subject, where do they start? What’s the first step?
So the course is laid out to encourage people to write the kind of work I’ve written. There’s all different ways, and there’s so many people creating nice digital workbooks, PDF workbooks, the way that I have done my workbook series and the way that I know, which is to either teach your habits as a framework, like Poster Girl is five habits broken down into sub habits, or a time based workbook like people really love.
My first workbook, the 33 days, introducing people to the intermittent fasting practice, that workbook did really well and sold several 100 copies. And then I sold the rights. It’s been translated into Spanish, because the publisher who approached me to buy the rights in Spanish likes to do time based workbooks, where every morning, you read one entry, and you reflect on it, and then the next day, you read the next entry, and you reflect on it, and you know that in 33 days, you’ve worked through your workbook, and you’re finished.
So I would say to somebody who coaches or teaches, just simply wants to inspire other people with some kind of health or healing practice that’s helped you in your own life. To go through kind of an inventory is what I do in the course is to say, what are t the habits that helped you create this change in your life? How can you break them down and kind of categorise them.
I just took Beth Kempton’s course, she had this brain dump and went on to post-its in her course. But I didn’t use post-its in my course. But it’s the same idea of kind of just getting everything out there, moving it around, categorising it, and then creating for yourself this strong outline of either day one through 33. In my case, or habit one sub habit one, two and three, habit two, sub habit one, two, and three, just get your outline written and then, you know, give people some content, some inspiration, and some space for them to reflect on it.
You know, a workbook to me, most of mine are like 5000 words, 7500 words, that lengthier ones or maybe 10,000 words they’re not they’re not a high content book. They’re not as low content as my journals, which are almost practically blank paper is in a pretty pretty package, which I’ll pay good money for a pretty book with just blank paper inside, you know, that’s nothing wrong with a pretty but you have to kind of think about what it is that you’re trying to create for people.
Do you want them to just have blank space? Or do you want them to have, you know, some some stuff to cogitate on in terms of the exercises before you give them? Some my workbooks have specific questions in a box, or lines that’s like kind of structured, others or just, here’s something to contemplate, and here’s a whole bunch of space to reflect on that.
And I don’t care people draw doodle or never write in the book at all. I’m really big on you, do you whatever feels right. So it depends on the author and the journey they’re trying to take the reader on.
Let’s get that right. 5000 to 7000 words. I mean, that is so good to hear!
I mean, a workbook is really a low, low ish content book. Yeah.
You want to write a book, because you want to give value to your clients. Oh, it’s got to be 50,000 to 80,000 words. And I’m thinking, oh, that’s, you know, same as my PhD thesis help! 5000 words, that’s that’s doable. You know, perhaps that’s something that’s a really good starting point, achievable.
I think it’s a great starting point. This is all unfolded quickly for me. But you know, a year ago when I was really just excited about workbooks, and I was like, who wants to make a workbook?
Let’s make a workbook about everything with everyone on planet Earth.
You know, you could use it just as an audience builder, if you you want to write a full length book, but you need to just start building an audience.
You know, create the thing on Amazon. If anybody here has done any self publishing on Amazon, because of their behemoth status, you know, they really can create something that’s so affordable, most of my workbooks, even the ones that are at the 9.99, retail, they they’re $2 plus shipping, so it comes out to almost $3 a piece that I pay for them.
That allows you to just give them away if you want to, you know if I get the book for $3 and then I just run giveaways back in the old days when we could just have events and conferences and see people you know, instead of giving people a business card, just give them your book.
What better way, if you’re going to give a talk or you’re going to run a session on something to let people go home with a full-colour ,attractive book. They don’t present as an inexpensive book, but they’re not expensive.
A few questions here from the group. Let me go just back through. So what’s the name of the first book? So that was Unbelievable Freedom right?
Yes, Unbelievable Freedom, how we transformed our health and happiness with intermittent fasting. We didn’t have any intention of becoming authors or me quitting my job or anything of that sort. We just, we had people gathered who asked for the story, they were like, can you tell us more about what was going on with you guys? How did you gain all that weight? So we just responded to their request and their desire for a book.
And then when people started to buy them, then it’s very, it’s exciting when it’s like, oh, people are exchanging their money for my, my words that I put down here, like, what other words could I put down somewhere and, and people would exchange their money for that. And I could just, you know, stop schlepping off to the hospital in real clothes and do this job.
Thank you so much Kim, I didn’t want to take any more of your time.
It was great fun and I’m really happy you’re all doing this being there for one another’s writing I’m I’m finding my my spaces to be into I spend a lot of time with with myself and and now that we’re in a new city. I want to give myself a lot of space for what I’m doing. But it’s good to connect with real people. It’s good to have friends. So thank you so much.
Thank you so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Episode 2. Should I start a blog for my business?
Episode 1. Welcome to the talk. write. done. podcast
Welcome to the talk.write.done podcast.
Host Dr Lizzy Tanguay talks about why she decided to start a podcast and what you can expect to hear on the show.
Mentioned in the episode: Get writing done download for busy coaches.