…Put together a launch team! Not only is running a launch team fun, but it’s an easy and free way to tap into a network of hundreds or thousands of potential readers that you wouldn’t reach without them. Your launch team doesn’t have to be big; I had 20 people on mine.
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 Jessi Beyer.
Jessi is an international award-nominated speaker, #1 best-selling trauma author, and founder of the Aspiring Author Incubator, through which she helps aspiring authors take their book from idea to published so they can get it into the hands of their perfect readers. Named a 2020 “Young Entrepreneur To Watch” by IdeaMensch, she has been featured in dozens of media outlets, including Best Company, Thrive Global, and Elite Daily, and has spoken to thousands of people across the country through groups like Penn State University and Leadercast NOW. Outside of her professional life, Jessi is a K9 search and rescue handler and a proud pet mom. You can connect with her on Instagram @jessibeyerinternational.
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 mental health, the particular area that you writing about?
My interest in mental health really started with my own mental health struggles in high school. It’s not a unique story by any means, but it was very pivotal for me. I was struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and body dysmorphia, and I was also in a relationship with someone who was struggling with his mental health. This relationship unfortunately ended with his suicide attempt. As I started to heal from that time in my life, I found a few things to be true. First, simply being vulnerable and having conversations with others could be such a “light bulb” moment for them, as they recognized that they weren’t alone. Conversations like that could truly help them on their healing journey. Second, I didn’t find the healing and support I was looking for in traditional talk therapy, and I thought that was the only way to heal. When I learned more about the options that were out there, I wanted other trauma and mental illness survivors to have the options that I didn’t, or at least that I didn’t know existed. Those two realizations bred a passion of mental health advocacy in me, and that’s the field I work in today.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
I went to one day of therapy after my ex-boyfriend’s suicide attempt. I spent about 45 minutes with the therapist, spilling my story to her, and after that short session, she slapped me with a diagnosis and told me I’d see her next week. I felt so uncomfortable and unheard during that therapy session that I literally ran out of the building and never went back. Looking back on it, I can see that incident as a simple mismatch between a client and therapist, but it opened my eyes to how boxed-in and stigmatized the mental healthcare system is. I didn’t know it at that time, but when I was at a point in my life to choose a career and a cause to advocate for, that story came back to the forefront of my mind as something I needed to build on and dig deeper into.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
My biggest focus right now is serving my students in the Aspiring Author Incubator! Seeing their breakthroughs and successes is just as exciting as finding my own breakthroughs and successes, and I’m excited to see our numbers grow into the thousands in 2021. That being said, I’ll never stop being a writer, and I do have another book on the horizon. I can’t say much more about it now, but stay tuned and keep in touch for more announcements.
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?
My book is called How To Heal, and it’s a guide to natural and integrative trauma therapies. Unfortunately, 70% of people will experience a trauma during their lifetimes, and most people either refuse to seek help because of the talk therapy stigma or don’t find the healing they’re looking for from talk therapy alone. My goal with How To Heal is to educate trauma survivors on all their healing options and help them find the path that’s right for them. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter that really sums up my book and my mission with it:
“I’m writing this book because someone needs to tell you…that you’re not broken and that your trauma is worthy of healing from. Someone to tell you that there are options for healing from the pain, the anger, the guilt, and the sorrow that do not involve talk therapy. Someone to tell you what happens during therapy so it’s not so scary walking into it. Someone to tell you that you are loved, and accepted, and right, no matter how wrong you feel. My hope is that, through my writing and your reading of this book, you can take the first steps toward healing in a way that honors you and is comfortable for you. There is so much understanding to be gained from these pages, about trauma and about ways that you can heal, and I hope that you’re able to glean enough of it that you can start your own healing journey. Understand what trauma is and what it does. Learn about the different options of healing from it. Pick one that feels the best to you and finally, finally, learn to heal. There’s so much life waiting for you on the other side.”
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?
Tenacity was certainly the most important. I’m a self-published author, though I originally wanted to traditionally publish my book. I spent months querying nearly a dozen literary agents, and none of them were interested in my book in the slightest. I thought about shelving my book for a few years to build up a bigger platform, as one of the agents who did reply stated that as the reason she wasn’t interested, but I realized my message was too important to leave sit for years. Tenacity was what enabled me to pick myself up, dust myself off, and find another way to get my book out into the world.
Confidence was probably the next most important character trait. As an author, it’s inevitable that you’ll get bad reviews. I got a pretty — and, honestly, a bit mocking — review from a prominent review source, and it would have been easy to be crippled by that review. Confidence in my writing skills and the message I had to share, as well as loads of other positive reviews and endorsements, gave me the ability to look past that review and focus on the lives I could change.
Finally, creativity was incredibly important. Obviously, as writers, we’re artists, and creativity is inherently important, but I don’t just mean creativity in the writing process. When launching a book, almost nothing will go according to plan — that’s just the hard and often humorous truth. There will be launch team members who ghost you, websites that go down a month before your launch, and emails that get sent to entirely the wrong segment of your list. Having creativity throughout the process prevents you from getting stuck by those roadblocks, instead finding a new way around problems to achieve the successful launch you had planned from the beginning.
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?
I got the coolest compliment before my presentation at Boston University the other day — the vice president of the student government, a young man by the name of David, told me that he had been doing some research on me before he booked me, and I just kept showing up everywhere. Podcast interviews, articles, guest blogs, and more — my name kept popping up.
I can absolutely attribute that to my book. The year my book came out, I got just under 100 different press features, including my first TV interview, and I went from speaking twice a semester (I speak on college campuses, so my brain works in semesters) to speaking over a dozen times a semester. I went from being an absolute nobody in the world of entrepreneurship or mental health to having my name readily available on multiple different platforms for potential clients to find me. That, in short, is what writing a book did for my brand.
Additionally, writing a book can be the catalyst for expanding your brand. I never would have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing aspiring authors through my Incubator if I never wrote my book. I never would have made some of the connections I now have (Hayley Luckadoo, Rudy Mawer, and Haley Burkhead, I’m looking at you!) if it weren’t for my book. Honestly, writing my book was one of the most pivotal moments in my life because of how much it blew my world and the opportunities in it wide open. I’m on a ship to the moon, and my book is the rocket fuel getting me there.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming an author and promoting a book? Can you explain to other leaders why they should invest resources and energy into this? Can you share a few examples of how writing a book in particular and thought leadership in general can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
Gosh, I could talk about this for hours! To set the scene, I 10X-ed my business’s revenue within six months of my book being out; that’s the power that you have in your hands.
In the essence of full transparency, I did not 10X my business with revenue from book sales, and most of the authors that I work with don’t significantly grow their business with revenue from book sales. Instead, they (and I!) leverage the credibility they get from being an author to secure more press opportunities, attract new clients, raise their rates, book more speaking gigs, and more.
There’s this magical thing that happens when you publish your book and add the title of “author” after your name — people want to talk to you. You are automatically more of an expert, even if you’re the exact same person you were the day before your book launched. Simply by including the fact that you’re an author (or, better yet, a best-selling author) in your pitches for interviews, guest blogs, speaking gigs, and more, you’re more likely to get booked. Trust me; I’m living proof of how this works.
While that is kind of a general collection of tips or ideas for growing a business with a book, I do want to give a niche tip to readers who are service-based entrepreneurs. If you offer sliding-scale services or constantly have clients negotiating your rates with you, writing a book is a way to stop that once and for all. You can now politely turn these potential clients away, offer them something incredibly valuable (your book!), and leave room in your business for clients who can happily pay full price. Oftentimes, business owners are hesitant to turn people away because they honestly want to help them and are scared of losing revenue, but when you throw a book and the increased credibility from writing it in the mix, you’re solving both those problems. Your book helps them even when they don’t work with you, and your credibility brings in more clients to fill those slots.
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 a story about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
I’m going to point back to my previous answer, as one of the biggest and best learning moments I had while promoting my book was that my increased revenue didn’t have to come from book sales. Yes, I’ve reached thousands of readers in nearly a dozen different countries, and I’m incredibly proud of that. That being said, only a portion of those sales came from readers on Amazon, and the majority of my increased revenue did not come directly from book sales.
For example, one of the biggest sources of book sales for me is through bulk buys from places I speak. About a quarter of the colleges I speak at every semester order anywhere from 30 to 100 copies of my book to go alongside my presentation. Not only does this enhance my presentation by giving attendees a tangible take-home, but it increases my revenue from each presentation by a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
In short, get creative when it comes to book sales, and don’t think that book sales are the only way you can make money from your book. Can you offer bulk buys at your speaking gigs, like I do? What about adding a signed copy of your book to your signature program to increase its value, and thereby increase its price? Can you do book signings at your university’s alumni center and sell signed copies there? There’s no limit to the ways you can reach new readers and make money while doing it, so don’t pigeonhole yourself into the most traditional method of book sales.
I didn’t really make a mistake that caused me to realize this, but I definitely had an “oh shoot” moment when I thought about trying to make 100,000 dollars solely from book sales. I had never sold volume, low-ticket items before, and when I realized I’d have to sell something like 30,000 books to make that much money, I knew I had to sort out a different way to hit the same revenue goal.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?
Publicity is definitely something you can do on your own. Especially for indie or first-time authors, I don’t believe the cost of a publicist is worth it. At most, take a course on publicity to get some pitch scripts and templates you can use. I also think launch team management is something authors can do on their own.
Where I’d suggest investing, if you have the budget, is into any social media ads you run. I personally didn’t use social media advertising when I launched my book (and I still reached hundreds of readers within the first few days of How To Heal being live!), but if you want to go down that route and don’t have tons of advertising experience, save yourself the hassle and the wasted ad spend by investing in a marketing expert.
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?”
- First thing’s first — start early! There’s so much talk in the publishing world out there about writing and publishing your book in 90 days, and I think that’s completely ridiculous. Not only does that rushed approach turn people away and breed sloppy and low-quality books, but you miss out on the majority of press and review opportunities before your launch. If you went to a podcast host three weeks before your launch and expected that episode to be live launch week, you’re likely going to get laughed out of the building. Same goes for endorsers, reviewers, and other members of the media. Start your publicity process at least three months in advance, and ideally more like five months in advance.
- Secondly, when you are embarking on that pre-launch publicity journey, leverage the fact that you’re an author. Sure, you’re not really an author yet, but if you tell a podcast host that you’re the author of the upcoming book How To Heal, you’re going to tap into that author-level expert status and be more likely to land the interview.
- Third, put together a launch team! Not only is running a launch team fun, but it’s an easy and free way to tap into a network of hundreds or thousands of potential readers that you wouldn’t reach without them. Your launch team doesn’t have to be big; I had 20 people on mine. When you’re assigning them tasks, consider things like posting on their social media accounts, creating promotional graphics or videos, or pitching you for press features. My launch team got me a feature interview in my city’s most prestigious magazine and my first TV interview; they’re absolutely worth the effort they take to run.
- Fourth, signed copies are fun. They make excellent gifts for the holiday season, products for free-plus-shipping funnels, welcome packages for high-ticket clients, and more. Getting or buying a book is fun, but it’s infinitely cooler when it’s a personalized, signed copy. Leverage that coolness and make promoting signed copies of your book a key part of your book marketing strategy.
- Fifth and finally, the marketing process doesn’t stop after your launch! It can shift focus, and it probably should, but your book is something you promote and leverage for the rest of your life. Don’t forget to plan promotions for your book, post about it on social media, and book press features on the topic of your book every single quarter. You poured your heart and soul into this book; don’t let all that work (and all the momentum from that work!) die a few weeks after your launch.
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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I’m torn! Jennifer Armentrout, Meghan March, and Molly McAdams are my three favorite authors; can I just be selfish and say I’d like a group brunch with all three of them?
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way to connect with me is on Instagram @jessibeyerinternational! If you’re interested in writing a book of your own, I have a free training at the link in my bio (or right here!) that you can take that’ll show you how you can take your book from idea to published without working more than five hours a week or spending thousands of dollars on the publishing process.
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.