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Lisa McGrath of ‘Pages with Purpose’: “Have fun!”

Becoming a published author opened up opportunities for me and my business; it allowed me to be seen as an authority and thought leader. I tell my clients that the word “author” is at the root of “authority” and that becoming a published author allows them to grow their brand by becoming that sort out […]

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Becoming a published author opened up opportunities for me and my business; it allowed me to be seen as an authority and thought leader. I tell my clients that the word “author” is at the root of “authority” and that becoming a published author allows them to grow their brand by becoming that sort out authority.


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 Lisa McGrath.

Lisa McGrath is America’s Achievement Coach, an International Best-Selling Author, Speaker, National Board Certified Teacher, course creator, writing teacher, and editor. She helps clients get published to gain visibility, authority, and leads with her Writing, Publishing, and Marketing course. She teaches the what and how of getting your stories…your messages…published so you can have a more significant impact on your life, business, and the world at https://www.pageswithpurpose.org.


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?

Like many people, I grew up in a blended family that was dysfunctional and abusive, and then I found myself homeless at fourteen years old to escape the abuse. Not knowing where to go or what to do, I took refuge in the local library. Books became my salvation as I learned what it meant to be an adult, have a job, an apartment, and responsibilities. But through it all, I remained in high school to prove the family naysayers wrong when they said I would never graduate; matter of fact, from a young age I was told I wouldn’t amount to much, that I was worthless, and that I was useless. So, I wanted to prove them wrong.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

There have been many pivotal moments, but the one that comes to mind is from my days trying to finish high school, while working full-time in a jewelry factory, and pretending that I was a mature adult. Not many people knew that I was living on my own because I had been raised to keep personal business private…to wear a façade that showed the public that all was well, no matter what was going on behind the scenes. I remember a conversation with my favorite English teacher that seemed to echo the same messages I had long heard from my step-mother. When I expressed my interest in becoming an author, a playwright, he told me, “Lisa, you have such lofty dreams.” His words stung, but what he said next, took my life in a different direction. “As a woman, your job is to get married and raise a family.” So, I did.

It wasn’t until my children grew up and moved on with their lives and a divorce that I recognized that it was indeed my time to pursue my dreams. To continue on my mission of proving the naysayers wrong. After twenty-five years of teaching and encouraging others to pursue their dreams and live an Intentional Life, I dusted off my own dream of becoming an author. As an author, I can share my experiences, ideas, and memories.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

There often seems to be a few projects going at the same time. Recently, I published A House With Four Rooms: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellbeing along with a companion workbook to help individuals discover their purpose, set goals, and develop the steps to achieve them. This is the introductory book to my memoir I’m writing now, A Pilgrimage to Self: Lessons from the Camino.

Currently, I’m also in the process of editing two projects: an anthology about music programs and teachers and the first novel for two clients that are collaborating on a series about friendships, personal relationships, and discovering oneself.

Another project is the Writing, Publishing, and Marketing course for entrepreneurs, coaches, and aspiring authors. The six-week course focuses on crafting their personal stories of WHY for the Pages with Purpose anthology. The individual chapters teach the revision, editing, and formatting process; publishing options, and marketing strategies. As published authors, the entrepreneurs and coaches become visible as experts within their field; they cross-promote with the other featured authors, grow their client lists, and get invited to speak, become podcast and summit guests, and develop Tedx Talks.

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?

Pages with Purpose is an anthology that shares personal stories for professional purposes; it inspires, encourages, and supports others as they discover their true purpose. One such story was written by Chef Kathleen Roussel, a multi-award-winning culinary educator, owner/founder of Chef of the House Cooking School, and Cooking School Biz Strategist who shares her passion to spread the knowledge of cooking to kids, teens, and parents to create confidence and lasting memories in the kitchen.

Chef Kathleen’s story is rooted in faith, perseverance, and pursuit of a dream. She describes the obstacles she and her husband, Tate, overcame by “pressing forward with faith and positivity.” She ends her story with this advice, “After so many hardships and experiences, I like to live my life with this quote in mind: ‘There is always a blessing in the storm.’ I encourage you to find your blessings.”

Chef Kathleen’s story speaks of the incredible pain, sacrifice, and blessings when she describes her husband’s diagnosis of cancer, her fertility treatments, and the flooding of her home during Hurricane Harvey. She describes the loss of her home and dreams of opening a cooking school, “We were devastated and gave up on our dream of opening our business.”

From the trials and tribulations, came lessons. “Amid all the loss around us, we realized how blessed we truly are. We were so proud to live in a community where strangers reached out to help others and did not think twice. We were picked up from the shelter by a coworker who, with his family, opened their home to us. Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and strangers shared their clothes, supplies, items, time, love, and hearts with us. My current and former students offered to help. They all showed up with a smile and a willingness to help and make things better.”

Chef Kathleen’s story is an example of how we truly are better together. When she speaks of her students, “They have not only learned about culinary arts from me, but they have also learned about citizenship, compassion, empathy, kindness, grace, and work ethic.” But Chef Kathleen also learned a valuable lesson that she shares, “That experience made me realize that I am truly blessed to be able to teach, and I needed to continue to pursue my dream.” She shares the message of hope, faith, and gratitude.

This is just a small excerpt of Chef Kathleen’s story, but it shows how connecting to a purpose and a personal WHY has the power to transform our live, that we can be inspired by the pursuit of our dreams, and the value of community…we certainly are better together.

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?

Writing and launching a book takes confidence, commitment, and perseverance because it’s hard work for long term success. From experience, I learned that everyone has a story, but not everyone feels like they have a voice. As a homeless teen, I was ashamed and embarrassed by my family and the situations that I was told to keep secret, and I didn’t have the confidence to pursue my dreams of becoming an author. I had a story, a message, and I was passionate about it; however, I didn’t make a commitment to my dream. Sure, I picked up a pen and notepaper from time to time, invested in an electric typewriter, and even became an early adopter of the home computer, but I still didn’t commit to writing my books or have the knowledge to go about really getting it done.

After much procrastination, I could no longer silence my passion for making a difference in others’ lives by sharing my message; I knew my stories and experiences could be a teaching tool and have a positive impact on those that were open to listening and learning. A number of major life events, including two spiritual pilgrimages on the Camino de Santiago and an emergency health scare helped me realize that our stories and messages are important; I could no longer deny or hide my mess when I felt God was illuminating my way to sharing it through my business and writing. I experiences a paradigm shift and no longer felt obligated to hide and pretend that everything was fine; I was no longer spending time “in” my personal story of trauma; I had experienced healing and felt confident in sharing my message in the hopes of inspiring, encouraging, and supporting others. This confidence and need to help others led to multiple books, and the newly released A House With Four Rooms: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellbeing that is part memoir and part guide for finding your purpose, setting goals, and developing the action steps to achieve them. My passion for this philosophy of living motivated me to write and publish the book to teach others about the possibilities of living a healthier lifestyle based on Intentional Living.

It took a strong work ethic and commitment to learning how to write, publish, and market my books for me become an international bestselling author. Just as I had turned to books as a teenager to learn how to be an adult, I read and researched to learn how to become an author. In college, I studied English fully aware of my shelved dream of becoming a writer. Once I committed to writing and publishing, I took more courses on how to build an audience and platform, create social media accounts and campaigns, and hone my message to extend my reach. Learning and doing took commitment, time, and energy, but it fueled me to develop my own Writing, Publishing, and Marketing course for other entrepreneurs, coaches, and aspiring authors.

The third character trait that I rely on for success is perseverance. My life experiences had taught me an essential life lesson: the power of yet. This is having the confidence, work ethic, and commitment to not give up, even when the obstacles you face seem unsurmountable. This usually defines one’s success. By showing up, doing the tasks each day, learning, pivoting, and being consistent, I have found we can do most things, even write and launch books. By building and following writing and launching strategies, the obstacles become manageable. It’s very much how I walked over 500 miles on the Camino, one step at a time.

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?

Becoming a published author opened up opportunities for me and my business; it allowed me to be seen as an authority and thought leader. I tell my clients that the word “author” is at the root of “authority” and that becoming a published author allows them to grow their brand by becoming that sort out authority.

With each book, I’ve been able to build my own Pages with Purpose brand, expand my business services, and launch my Writing, Publishing, and Marketing course.

As an author and editor, I’ve been able to help hundreds of entrepreneurs, coaches, and aspiring authors share their personal stories of WHY, and their professional messages that inspire, encourage, and support others on their journeys. For instance, in the Pages with Purpose anthology, the authors captured important moments in their lives that identified something bigger for them, and in some ways, became the pain point that allowed them to move forward with creating their businesses. This passion provides the motivation not only to do what’s necessary for the daily operations of their businesses, but to step out of their comfort zones by being vulnerable, authentic, and inspirational in sharing their personal stories. People connect to stories, and this connection helps build your brand, reputation, and audience. It allows you to be a leader in your industry and grow your brand.

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?

At the end of the day, entrepreneurs want customers, and customers want solutions. Not all entrepreneurs are professional writers nor do they want to be. However, entrepreneurs want to grow their businesses and brands, be seen as an authority within their field, and build reputations that allow them to be seen, heard, and known. Becoming a published author is one of the fastest ways to build this credibility, create buzz, and be seen.

There are a number of ways for entrepreneurs to pursue getting published: write their own manuscript, contribute to an anthology, or hire a ghostwriter. The investment of time, energy, and resources is well worth it to gain visibility, authority, and credibility, especially for newer entrepreneurs.

One of the thought leaders in Pages with Purpose, Karen McFarlane Holman, Ph.D. described her experience of feeling invisible and ignored in one of her favorite science classes and how this experience developed her mission to mentor young students. She created a science program that impacts the lives of young students and allows them to be Rockstars. She is changing the course of her students’ lives by creating programs that empower them through her 3C’s with fun, encouragement, and visibility. Karen’s students will not experience the same feelings of being invisible and ignored in her programs. As a published author, she’s able to share the details of her program with the readers of the book. Another advantage of being in the anthology is networking and cross-promoting with the other authors.

Another example is that of Kebreeya Lewis as she pursues her entrepreneurial dream. Her chapter includes her inspirational story of becoming an advocate for healthy eating that started in high school with a vision that led to an HBO documentary, and her mission to bring healthier food options to her community. In her story, she shares her journey and vision for opening a food truck and restaurant that provides vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals. With the success of the book, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at the annual Library Speaker Series at North Carolina Central University. As a published author, she’s getting noticed because she’s sharing her WHY.

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?

Before I wrote and launched my first book, I had these grandiose thoughts of what it would be like to be an author and promote my book. I thought my only job would be to write the book and show up–show up for book signings, interviews, and speaking engagements. I never gave realistic thought to the scheduling of these events; I guess they would just be magically arranged and scheduled in my calendar. Maybe I thought I would have a publicist and manager. I learned from experience that the process is much more than just writing the book and showing up. It takes a full commitment to the launch and promotional campaign.

  • The author wears many hats, and sometimes, you’ll find that you are wearing more than one hat at a time. For example, I had to learn to exchange my author’s hat for a business executive and lead sales coordinator’s hats before the book was fully written. Authors are used to thinking about purpose, audience, and context of their texts, but what I learned from my publishing journey is that I had to think of my purchasing audience, my reader, in a new way. I created an avatar, my perfect reader, and constructed a promotional plan calendar. As an author, I learned the importance of sharing tiny milestones with my readers, daily word counts, obstacles, wins, and hints about what I was writing. When the cover is finalized, share it on social media and all of your platforms. If you are going to be selling on Amazon, make your book available for pre-order; these advance sales will count towards your launch date. Your promotional campaign should also include getting the word out through the media, television, radio, and podcast interviews, magazine articles, blogs, social media platforms, author’s pages, and independent book shops.
  • Another lesson that I wish I had learned early on is to get Beta and Advance Reader Copies to collect reader blurbs and reviews. There are so many readers that look for book recommendations, and the reviews you have will introduce you to a larger audience. A larger audience means more book sales.

Once you have actual release dates, make sure you’re booked for events like an online Meet the Author, in store book signings, and media release announcements. It’s important to remember that your book release is not a one and done; you’ll revisit and relaunch for years to come.

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?

There are a number of things an author can do straight away; for example, create an Author’s page on all your social media platforms that you use. Most coaches will advise you choose one major social media platform to grow your audience and share everything about your writing journey and your books. You should create a professional bio, one sheet, and headshot for media releases and pitches, as well as develop a website and gather testimonials.

A book publicist or marketing expert can manage your media releases, pitches, and schedule when it is time to outsource to protect your time and energy. As individuals, we need to respect our personal and professional time, commitments, and responsibilities. Hiring a book publicist is a personal choice and may be included with a traditional publisher.

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.

I’m learning all the time, and I’m grateful for the experiences and opportunities to continue to learn and share. My list of five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book are as follows:

  1. Set up an author’s website and Author’s Page on social media platforms and start identifying yourself as an author. I think I learned this the hard way because even though I work as an Achievement Coach, teacher, and author, I didn’t want to put myself out on social media. After years of keeping silent and not telling my personal story publicly, I learned that my audience wants to see me, hear me, and know me.
  2. Another recommendation is to start promoting your next book NOW. It takes time and energy to create a buzz about your books and you can do this even before you start writing. Make sure you are talking about your books and sharing on social media. A great way to do this is to create a series and create curiosity about the books to come. You can do this by sharing the first chapter of the next book at the end of a current book. Let your readers fall in love with your characters and content.
  3. Create a lead magnet to collect email addresses of readers: workbook, cheat sheet, templates, newsletter are great opportunities to build your list. For my latest book, A House With Four Rooms: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Welbeing, I created a companion workbook that readers can download from my website for free. This is an opportunity to add them to my email list, book funnels, and book ambassador program. It’s a way to build my business and promote my books.
  4. Have fun! Be creative, celebrate, organize giveaways, and enjoy the process. The business of being an author, publishing, launching, and marketing a book is a lot of work and can get stressful. For many of us, the pressure and schedule can cause overwhelm and anxiety. When this happens, I know as a recovering perfectionist, I’ll procrastinate by elevating other agenda items to my to-do list and avoiding what’s necessary. So, instead, I try to make all aspects of being an author fun and rewarding. I celebrate my accomplishments and the process. And most importantly, I practice self-care and respect my time, energy, and resources.
  5. Accept responsibility for marketing and promoting of your book…your books success is a direct consequence of your actions. Take the time to invest in yourself and your business, learn everything you can, collaborate and share with others, and do the things…all the things that will help your book, your message, reach the people that your story can help impact.

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, 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 🙂

As a survivor of a dysfunctional family and abuse, I have long admired Oprah and how she didn’t allow circumstances, naysayers, or doubt shackle her to her past and the expectations of others. Not only has she become a force and energy of good, she has impacted the lives of so many. Reading saved her life in the same way that it helped me and continues to inspire me to want to do more and be more. It would be an ultimate pleasure to meet Oprah and her friend, Gayle King. These two women have made a difference by empowering others, discovered their purposes, and living intentionally with authenticity, vulnerability, and kindness. There is so much to honor and emulate when looking at these powerful women..

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can find my website at www.pageswithpurpose.org to learn more about my services to help entrepreneurs, coaches, and aspiring authors published. On social media, I can be followed @coachlisamcgrath and for personal and professional development, readers can learn more about my Achievement Coaching Programs at www.lisamcgrath.me.

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.

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