When I first started writing and talking publicly about mental illness, I was very narrowly focused on building my private practice. A good social media presence and some press mentions can be helpful. People were definitely receptive, and talking and teaching about it became a goal of its own. Then came the book, and the mission hasn’t changed but I have a lot more ability to influence things on a larger scale.
During COVID, I had several opportunities to be quoted in articles and invited on podcasts and radio shows about how to manage COVID stress and the way it was changing relationships. In a crisis that big, I had enough of a voice to help people. The funniest moment was when I was quoted in an article on the Food Network about celebrating holidays during COVID. It’s funny because I’m a terrible cook.
Big picture? I want to provide ways for people to understand mental illness and people with a mental illness in a way that builds knowledge and connection, and I have a much bigger voice in that now.
As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aimee Daramus, Psy.D.
Aimee Daramus, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of mental illness. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Adler University, sees clients at Urban Balance in Chicago, and teaches at Harold Washington College. Aimee’s specialty areas include bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders and trauma, and on the ways that technology, social media and pop culture can be used as tools in therapy. She has been quoted in articles in Vogue, Well+Good, Bustle and Huffpost, among others. Her web site is at www.audeotherapy.com
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?
In my earliest days as a therapist, I worked a lot in community mental health and in a hospital IOP program, where I got to know my clients on a much deeper level than you do in individual therapy. At jobs like that you know their talents, their likes and dislikes. You’re part of celebrations of their successes, and you play a daily role in their lives for a while. You take them on outings. Sometimes you meet their families, and this makes you, as a therapist, see things very differently. You’re not just hearing about their lives in a session, you’re there for some of the really bad moments and some of their biggest victories, and the moments when things get very human and you’re just drinking coffee and talking about movies or music or something like that. I realized that a lot of therapy manuals do a great job at writing about coping skills and diagnosis and treatment plans, but that there were very few written by therapists who could ground those things in their daily lives like that, particularly how little support some of our clients have, and how a mental illness can erode that support over time.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
I can’t tell too many details because of confidentiality, but a client had been having a lot of behavior problems at the program I was working at at the time. He and I put together a behavior plan that let him earn a reward that he wanted when he followed his plan. After he earned his reward, I called his family to tell them about it, and one of them started crying because it was the first time that a staff member had ever called to tell them about something he did well instead of calling about a problem.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
There are a few. I’ve started consulting a little bit on film scripts, to help people tell their stories about mental illness while minimizing stigma. I’m talking with a publisher about a couple of possible books, but that’s in very early stages. I’m writing for a blog called PsychReg. I published a post recently on managing stigma in storytelling, and I’m working on a blog post about the things that people with bipolar disorder know about it that their therapists never learned in school.
Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?
Understanding Bipolar Disorder is about the ways that families can support people with bipolar disorder while minimizing their own burnout. Some of it is about explaining what bipolar is and where it comes from, which is important for empowering families by making the science understandable to a lot of different people. It also helps them understand why their family members act in a certain way, and how it isn’t personal or intended to hurt them. There are practical tips about having family meetings, building relationships, setting boundaries and managing psycho emergencies. My publisher, Callisto Media, was very much on the same page I was about including ways that people of different genders, races and ethnicities experience bipolar disorder differently. They’re also committed to offering the book at a reasonable price, and including it on Kindle Unlimited, to make it affordable to as many people as possible.
You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I’m pretty confident. That was important, because being a writer involves a lot of anxiety. You’re really putting yourself out there for the whole world to see. Every draft I turned in had my heart pounding. The first time I ever saw the book’s Amazon page, I had a wild urge to back out and tell them to cancel everything. There was definitely a lot of meditation and chocolate involved in the process. You can do a nice mindful awareness exercise with chocolate.
I’m connected to an online community of people with mental illness, other therapists, and people who support that community. People gave me feedback and wrote reviews, retweeted my tweets, invited me on to their podcasts, and made posts about my book, so being willing to connect with people has been crucial.
I’m also wildly curious. I was that student who wanted to ask a million questions, try almost anything, and then talk about it for hours if anyone would let me. So the idea of learning more about a favorite topic and then writing about it was a great fit for my personality.
In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?
When I first started writing and talking publicly about mental illness, I was very narrowly focused on building my private practice. A good social media presence and some press mentions can be helpful. People were definitely receptive, and talking and teaching about it became a goal of its own. Then came the book, and the mission hasn’t changed but I have a lot more ability to influence things on a larger scale. During COVID, I had several opportunities to be quoted in articles and invited on podcasts and radio shows about how to manage COVID stress and the way it was changing relationships. In a crisis that big, I had enough of a voice to help people. The funniest moment was when I was quoted in an article on the Food Network about celebrating holidays during COVID. It’s funny because I’m a terrible cook. Big picture? I want to provide ways for people to understand mental illness and people with a mental illness in a way that builds knowledge and connection, and I have a much bigger voice in that now.
If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
I think that it would depend on their skill at writing and how much help they have. If they’re self-publishing, have they figured out how to get help with editing and marketing or anything else they might not have the skills for? Once a book is out there, it’s out there. A good product is definitely worth it, but if it’s not well-received, you may regret putting it out there.
If you’re going to write books or put yourself out there as a thought leader, know what you want to do and say. Take the time to craft your purpose and make sure it’s really you. I think writing and thought leadership have a certain glamour, and it’s very tempting, so go ahead and put yourself out there once you have a strong idea of what you want to do with that.
What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
I didn’t realize how many people I had in my life that were happy to be supportive. Once I had no choice but to risk reaching out to people for help, I was genuinely surprised and touched by the response. People I barely knew on Twitter were helping to boost it.
I learned the hard way that there’s more anxiety than I realized. For that first book, every chapter looked great until I had just emailed it to my editor, then I was certain it was terrible, but it never was. Reading your feedback, reading your reviews, there’s joy but you’ll also be nervous about it. Your head is going to mess with you, so you might want to start building your coping skills now. There’s a lot of excitement and celebration at the end of that, and then the knowledge that your book helped people change some things for the better. I’ve gotten reviews and even emails from readers, telling me that their families understand them better, that they know things they didn’t know before.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?
That depends on what skills and talents you have, and what skills you’re willing to develop. You’re not going to be totally objective about your book, so you definitely need professional beta readers. Do the parts you’re good at, and hire people for the rest of it if you can. Unless you’re familiar with book marketing already, get some advice on that, because there are very specific ways of presenting the book well that aren’t intuitive to most of us.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Figure out who your readers are. Don’t try to write a book for everybody. What age, gender, interests, or other qualities do your ideal readers have? My target reader has a family member or close friend with bipolar disorder, or is someone with bipolar disorder who wants to help family and friends understand them better.
- Writing a book is intensely personal. You’re going to have heightened emotional reactions to people’s comments on the book. The first day the book came out, I went from “champagne for breakfast” to “I’m about to be humiliated” to “Oh look, I got flowers” to “Oh, this was a but anticlimactic” and back to excited and happy, and I’m a therapist with a lot of experience with emotional coping skills!
- Even if you have a publisher, be prepared to put time and effort into marketing. That’s actually a good thing. You’re the author, and people will want to talk directly with you. You’re the subject-matter expert, not your publisher. A good social media presence seems to be a basic job requirement for a writer in the 21st century. My social media following isn’t huge, but it was strong enough to be a major factor in my being offered the publishing contract.
- Play to your skills and don’t hesitate to improve them. If you’re better at speaking, pitch yourself to radio shows and podcasts. Pitch yourself to news shows if your subject might be newsworthy. Put some time into bringing up your weaknesses so that you don’t waste an opportunity. I’m much more satisfied with my writing skills and my in-person speaking skills than my on-camera skills right now, so I’ve been working to improve my on-camera skills. It’s a Zoom world right now.
- You might have a lot more support than you realize. Friends of friends were getting excited about helping to promote my book. If you get a chance, share some of your media opportunities with others by mentioning people who’ve promoted you.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
One of the really good science writers or presenters, like Michio Kaku or Lindsey Fitzharris. It says everything about how much I value their work, that I only had to turn my head to the right to double-check the spellings of their names. They’re right there on the nearest bookshelf as I’m typing this.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m on Twitter and IG at @audeotherapy, and I’ve started writing for a blog called PsychReg. My Facebook is mostly friends and family. Twitter is my favorite public social media. My IG is very new, and it’s a psychology-focused bookstagram.
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.