…When I started writing Tickers, initially I created it for myself. However, as I created my business, KWE Publishing, I realized that I had credibility because I wrote my book. In publishing my book, I had figured out how to create a book cover, how to submit my files, and how to make updates. I learned how important it is to market your book, as I didn’t do a thing to market my own and it didn’t sell! I applied all of the lessons I learned and the mistakes I made, and channeled that into developing an audience for my clients and their books.
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 Kim Wells Eley.
Integrity, fun, and results are Kim Wells Eley’s values! She’s smart, sassy, friendly, and creative. This writing coach, publisher, author, and speaker brings HIGH ENERGY to everything she does! Her clients — including coaches, trainers, consultants, speakers, and discerning children’s book authors — count on her to take them from idea to published book. She genuinely cares about her clients’ messages and sharing them with the world. She grew her business by self-publishing her book, Tickers! What Makes People…Tick! And Pursue a Career They Love. She’s all about building confidence. Say it out loud: YOU ARE A WRITER, AND YOUR WORDS HAVE POWER! 💥 Seek her at https://kwepub.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?
I always jokingly tell people that I was an English major in college, so naturally I went into IT when I graduated! My love for taking computers apart and putting them back together lead me to become a computer technician. After being in IT for seventeen years, I worked my way from being a technician to becoming an IT project manager. While I loved my team, and the pay was great, I was bored. One day at work, we had layoffs. My job was safe but most of my team was laid off, which shook me up. I felt like I was sleepwalking through my life. I started wondering, “What do people do who love their work?”
As an avid reader, I searched for a book that discussed this topic and wasn’t happy with the ones I found. I decided, “I’m going to write the book I want to read!”
I spent two years interviewing people from all walks of life. The common thread is that they are passionate about what they do. In my conversations, I spoke with a woman who runs a traveling cat circus, a travel rep who plans surprise vacations for adventurous people, and a woman who owns a B&B in Washington, D.C., with over seventy hidden doors! While their careers varied, all of the people I interviewed were absolutely head-over-heels about what they did!
In 2016, I published my book, Tickers! What Makes People…Tick! And Pursue A Career They Love. After I published and started telling people about it, many said, “Wow, that’s great! I want to publish a book, too! How did you do it?” When I started telling them the steps I took, their eyes would glaze over. And then they would say, “I don’t think I can do all that! But I would pay you to do it for me!”
It was very meta! I realized that talking with interesting people, writing, and publishing books resonated with me. I decided to change careers and become a writing coach and publishing consultant. I constantly use my years of experience as a project manager combined with my master’s degree in writing and rhetoric to guide writers from idea to published book. And now I am also over-the-moon excited and delighted with my career.
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
Yes, of course! I joined a women’s networking group where I met the phenomenal life coach, Shirley T. Burke. When we met in 2016, I was about to launch my publishing business as a side hustle, and I had exactly zero clients. Shirley T. helped so many people with their career dreams but confessed to me she hadn’t gotten support she needed to write her own book. When I told her my plans to work with writers, her eyes lit up.
Shirley was taking a chance on me by being my first client. I was candid with her and said, “I don’t have all of the answers. We will learn about this together!” We collaborated by taking the articles she wrote for a women’s online magazine and compiling them into an anthology. She was so tickled when we published Shirley T. Burke’s Keepin’ It Real: Have You Forgotten? YOU MATTER!
Not only was Shirley T. my first client, she introduced me to other people who were important to her. As a result, I joined the National Speakers Association and FAB Women, a global networking group based in Richmond, Virginia. The connections I have made through these groups have been so valuable to me. Also, Shirley T. told her friends and clients about me, several of whom hired me.
I’m forever grateful to Shirley T. for her love and support. Also, I’m thankful that I helped her achieve her dream of publishing before she passed away unexpectedly in 2019.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
So glad you asked! My friend and coaching client, Amber Tichenor, has written a revealing look at female rivalry. Based on her Ph.D. thesis, she interviewed a number of women who experienced angst and the crazy-inducing feeling of being subtly torn down by other women. Titled Behind Frenemy Lines, her stories and research gave me the chills. She beautifully offers solutions for how to tackle this, and I can’t wait for women everywhere to read it!
Another book project focuses on autism, which impacts so many. We often focus on the child with autism but it has an effect on the entire family. Yoga instructor and mom Gina Uricchio has written beautiful blogs about her experiences, and her autistic daughter, Ally, has expressed herself through artwork and simple, powerful sayings that grab your heart. Together, we are working on Mother Asana: The Art and Voice of Autism. It’s an interactive journal for the entire family. The book is unusual — part journal, part inspiration, and part activities and recipes! The goal for this gorgeous book is to bring families together around the kitchen table for good food, fun crafts, and beautiful ways to celebrate this unique life we all share.
I’m also working with several children’s book authors, a super successful dental coach, a marvelous motivational speaker, a fantastic Christian fiction writer, and more! I’m thrilled about their incredible stories.
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?
I’m a self-described word nerd! When I started writing about people who do what they love, I kept thinking about the phrase, “What makes people tick?” I started my exploration by first examining this word, and I coined the term “tickers”:
A Ticker, meaning a person who knows what makes them tick, is similar to a countdown ticker on a clock. A countdown measures out the seconds, minutes, hours, and days to any date. Related to my quest, I asked: When does your life start? When you become the Ticker.
More than defining a person as a countdown ticker, however, I kept gravitating to the definition of the ticker as a person’s heart. Everyone’s emotional heart yearns to do what makes them tick. When a person is a Ticker, could it mean that they have tapped into their emotional heart’s desire? If Tickers were devoting most or all of their time towards their passion, they would be following their emotional heart.
I looked further. Healthy physical hearts beat in a specific rhythm; their rhythmic contractions move the blood through the body. This rhythm could be described as a “tick”…and probably is where the term “ticker” came from in the first place. For these people, the Tickers, it would be as though every beat of their heart aligns with their passion. In other words, their emotional hearts have synced with their physical hearts. The number of beats of their hearts doing what they love can measure time spent by these Tickers on earth.
I found that all of us have a calling, something that lights us up from the inside. We can choose to follow that calling or not follow that calling in our lives. If we ignore that calling, we can have success, but often it feels hollow. When we do what we truly want to do, and express who we truly are, we can have immeasurable success.
True story: I dedicated this book to my beloved mom, Shirley Wells, who passed away years before I wrote it. My aunt contacted me a couple of years after Tickers was published. She had found my mom’s high school yearbook that featured students who were high achievers. My jaw dropped when I saw the page. At the top, it said “Tickers” and there was a photo of my mom. I swear I had not seen this yearbook before I wrote my book. It gave me goosebumps! It was confirmation to me that I am on the right path and that I am definitely a Ticker.
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 would not stop talking about my book! When I published Tickers, I told everyone about writing and publishing it. I don’t just mean communicating on social media or in networking groups. Everywhere I went — the local cafe, the post office, standing in line at the store — I started conversations about my book! I think people picked up on my enthusiasm and wanted to know more. One time, I was eating at Panera and chatting with a friend about my book. A stranger walked up and asked, “Who are you?” Later we connected and she hired me as her writing coach!
To successfully launch a book, you must be open to asking for help. Books do not magically get known. The most successful authors find a team who can support them. On May 4, 2021, my awesome author client, Valerie James Abbott, launched her children’s book Padapillo based on her family’s experience with late onset hearing loss with her youngest daughter. Months in advance, she organized a launch team to assist her with spreading the word. She reached out to various hearing loss associations, including a partnership with Justin Osmond from the famous musical family and the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund. By reaching out to people from the CDC, Hands and Voices, and other organizations, she had a mighty team by launch time. And her book was a #1 new release on Amazon as a result!
Another character trait is resilience. Shyness is not your friend when you want to get the word out about your book. My awesome author client Craig Maltese wrote A Life Measured in Sessions: Sex, Fitness, and Self-Destruction. Over and over, Craig reached out to friends, family, and colleagues, asking for reviews for his book. He decided to reach out to more potential people in his audience by releasing an audiobook. We even collaborated on a television treatment based on his book and life story. He is constantly talking about his book, and it has been a game changer for him.
The third character trait is a willingness to try something new. When my awesome author client Patti Hornstra wrote When He Was Anna: A Mom’s Journey Through the Transgender World, we found an amazing image for her cover that perfectly captured her story. A simple photo of snow-covered swings, one colored blue and the other colored pink, that we used was captivating. Later, however, we received a candid critique from a book marketing expert who suggested the cover needed something more. Initially resistant, Patti finally decided the expert was correct. Using the same haunting image, she had the cover refreshed with a different font and background colors. The results are stunning! Patti is now gaining even more readers with her refreshed cover and also had branding created. She’s working on her second book and her readers can’t wait.
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?
Absolutely! When I started writing Tickers, initially I created it for myself. However, as I created my business, KWE Publishing, I realized that I had credibility because I wrote my book. In publishing my book, I had figured out how to create a book cover, how to submit my files, and how to make updates. I learned how important it is to market your book, as I didn’t do a thing to market my own and it didn’t sell! I applied all of the lessons I learned and the mistakes I made, and channeled that into developing an audience for my clients and their books.
I’ve heard someone say, “Who would you rather sail with: a sailor on their first voyage, with a clean, white suit, or the rough and ready, sea-tested, sailor who has been through storms?” Writing and publishing my own book proved to my clients that I had the experience and knowledge to steer them in the right direction.
I knew after publishing my own book that I needed to step up my marketing and PR support for my clients. I’ve formed partnerships with amazing women who provide the visibility that my awesome authors need. I work with Alexa Bigwarfe, a fellow fantastic publisher with her company, Write|Publish|Sell, who provides marketing support for my clients, including a marketing strategy session and a book launch team. And I coordinate with Kristin Spiers, who has years of experience connecting authors with the media for podcast, newspaper, radio, and television interviews. The “after” picture is now a coordinated effort with these wonderful women, and my clients are now sought after.
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?
For thought leaders, including entrepreneurs, speakers, coaches, consultants, and advocates, I would say yes! Publishing your book is definitely worth the effort and expense. Books are like your business card on steroids. They are great marketing tools.
First, a book gives you authority, credibility, and expertise. About forty years ago, only 10 percent of people in the U.S. had college degrees. Since it was relatively rare for people to have degrees, going to college was a way for them to stand out with credibility and expertise. That has changed. As of 2012, over 30 percent of people over age twenty-five in the United States held at least a bachelor’s degree, and more than 10 percent held a graduate degree. While holding a degree is still an important source of credibility, it is no longer as remarkable today as it was years ago. What is rarer than holding a college degree is writing and publishing your own book. By taking the time and effort to write a book, you as an author demonstrate that you show commitment and can successfully complete a project.
Writing and publishing your book raises your visibility and gets you media coverage. People in the media want to talk with experts, and writing your book is an excellent way to demonstrate you are an expert. When you write your own book, you demonstrate that you have amassed a certain amount of knowledge. In fact, there’s another expression that people use — “Well, I know enough about that subject to fill a book!”
Writing your book also helps people find you. While Google is the top ranked internet search engine, followed by YouTube, the third most popular search engine is Amazon. It’s where 44 percent of searches for products and services begin. Since writing a book makes you an expert, and your book is available on Amazon, the people buying products on Amazon already see you as an expert.
Another reason I recommend writing and publishing your book is that it gives people a reason to talk about you. Personally I gain the majority of my clients through word of mouth. Once they know I’ve written a book and I’ve helped many write and publish their books, that helps them to know me better. They can ask questions based on my experiences as a writer and with my clients who are authors.
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?
The hardest thing I learned is if you don’t market your book, no one will buy it. When you think about the sheer number of books published each year, and the amount of competition for our attention in the form of social media, television, podcasts, to name a few, you really have to implement a plan.
One tactic which can initially feel difficult for authors is to speak up over and over. Often, authors will say, “Well, I talked about my book twice on social media, so I’m sure everyone has gotten the message.” The truth is that not everyone in your social media audience will see every post you share. The depressing reality is only 10 percent of each person’s followers will see their posts on Facebook. The good news, however, is that you have many opportunities to share about your book.
One great strategy that Valerie James Abbott took for Padapillo was holding several live events on Facebook. Five months before launching, she invited her friends and family to a “meet the team” event live using Zoom and Facebook where she interviewed me, the illustrator, Gina Wojtysiak, and the graphic designer, Crystal Cregge, to share how the book project started. Then a month later, she held a cover reveal party using Facebook live. She and members of her family, Chris, Mary Clare, and Bridget, were interviewed, and then at the end, she did a big book cover reveal. It generated lots of great questions and excitement. Many who watched the events on Facebook later joined Valerie’s book launch team and shared about Padapillo to their friends and family members. I think having engaging events is a great plan for aspiring writers to take well before their launch date to get everyone psyched.
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?
Great question! First I recommend taking a hard look at your schedule. While you may have the savvy to implement some of the elements, such as social media or reaching out to influencers, do you really have the time to do them? If you have a background in PR and the time, you certainly could do it yourself. However, I find many busy writers just don’t have the bandwidth to make it happen successfully.
I’ll give an example. My awesome author client Katherine Kise works full-time and also is taking classes. She decided to partner with Gina McKenzie, a PR expert in Atlanta. Since Katherine’s book, Katie Can’t Eat Nuts, is about food allergies, Gina connected Katherine with Dr. Payel Gupta, host of “The Itch Podcast” and gained an endorsement for her book. While Katherine could have searched for connections, she would have had a difficult time during her busy days to reach out to Dr. Gupta.
However, for her book launch party celebration with family and friends, Katherine is making the arrangements with her incredible mom for an at-home party.
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.
The first of the five things is to identify your brand. A great example is when I collaborated with awesome author Brian Muka, who wrote Your Secret Superpower — Tame Fear to Thrive. He took his experience as a special operations officer in the U.S. Navy, learned to harness his fear and use it as an ally, and now shares these lessons through his books and business. In launching his book, we brainstormed about his intention (teaching others to use fear instead of being used by fear), his message (sharing the lessons he learned and his methods to harness fear), and his ideal reader (someone who wants to change but is being held back by fear).
Based on his brand identity, Brian and I decided to hold a skydiving book launch! In October 2019, in an airplane hangar, we gathered his friends and family. After reading excerpts from his book and inviting speakers to talk with the audience, a group of us walked onto the tarmac, boarded a small craft, and “jumped out of a perfectly good airplane,” as Brian described it. Skydiving paid homage to Brian’s service in the Navy and demonstrated how he uses fear as his superpower. It was an incredible day, and it propelled his coaching and consulting career.
The second strategy is to utilize social media. It’s relatively inexpensive and a powerful way to connect with friends, family, and potential readers. Author Gina Uricchio uses Instagram Reels to show short videos of her daughter, Ally, every Friday, which she calls “Fri-YAY!” These videos are popular with viewers on Instagram. It’s also a smart strategy to post on a regular rhythm as Gina does by posting on Fridays as viewers know when to tune in to catch the next video.
The third way is to reach out to the media. Wine lover Robin Anderson, awesome author of Here, Hold My Wine! Robin’s Practical and Impractical Guide to Life, and I reached out and scored an appearance on “Virginia This Morning” to discuss her book. Together, we drafted and submitted a press release. Think about creating a media press kit with your headshot, bio, and book blurb to send to podcasters and people in television and radio.
The fourth “must-do” for authors is to brainstorm smart connections. When Alexa Bigwarfe works with my clients, they do a 45-minute marketing consultation. During this meeting, they identify possible associations and related groups for each author based on their brand and their ideal reader. When Shirley T. Burke published her book, she reached out to people she knew through National Speakers Association to schedule presentations. This strategy worked well because people already knew and loved her, and having a book to promote gave them a good reason to schedule her to do a new talk.
The fifth recommendation I have is to share advanced reader copies. Provide a draft of your book to influencers prior to publishing. Once you’ve identified some smart connections, ask them if they would be willing to write a review for your book. When you publish, you can add their reviews onto your page with online retailers, and add them inside your book or on the back cover.
Another option is to ask someone who has clout in your field to write a foreword for you. My friend, coach Teri Karjula, scored bigtime when Jack Canfield from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series agreed to write the forward for her book, Be the Magic of You: Tools to Transform Your Life. Dream big and ask! The worst that can happen is someone says no, and the amazing could happen and they say yes!
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 🙂
Marcus Lemonis! He’s the CEO of Camping World, and star of the MSNBC show “The Profit” where he helps small business owners. I love his energy, his candor, his work ethic, and most of all, how kind and generous he is. Personally, I’d love to break bread with him because I think he’s brilliant and fun, and professionally, I’d love to ask him to write a foreword for one of my awesome authors!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I encourage you to reach out to me at my website, kwepub.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook. And this year, I’m rebooting my podcast, Sociable Scribes, with my co-host, Nakita Rowell-Stevens.
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.
Thank you! It’s been a pleasure.
(Photos by Kim Brundage, https://kimbrundage.com/)