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Natalie and Joeel Riveria of Transformation Academy: “Our case is a little unusual”

Our case is a little unusual. We did not write a book and then gain any form of success because of it. In fact, we did the opposite. We built a business first, then wrote a book. More specifically, we created online courses — dozens of them — becoming known as an expert in our field because of our […]

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Our case is a little unusual. We did not write a book and then gain any form of success because of it. In fact, we did the opposite. We built a business first, then wrote a book. More specifically, we created online courses — dozens of them — becoming known as an expert in our field because of our courses rather than books. Then, we started publishing books based on our courses.


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 Natalie and Joeel Riveria.

Joeel & Natalie are co-founders of Transformation Academy, where they train leading-edge entrepreneurs, leaders and life coaches how to master their mindset and create a purpose-driven business so they can monetize their passion and live life on their terms.

Joeel & Natalie have started more than a dozen businesses, including (in chronological order) imports, photography, non-profit teen center, life coaching, t-shirts, magazine, book publishing, professional speaking, conferences and workshops, holistic virtual office center, online directory, life coach training, and an online academy. Joeel is a former psychology professor with a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education is currently completing his dissertation on eudaemonic happiness for his Ph.D. in Psychology.

In 2014, they pivoted their business online, first by transitioning their print magazine into digital format and later when a long-term illness inspired them to convert their coaching and training programs into online courses. Since then, Transformation Academy has trained almost 500,000 coaches from 200+ countries and territories around the world. They are advocates for the democratization of education, making real-world, transformational knowledge and tools accessible to all.


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?

We have both been drawn to psychology and personal development since childhood, with a drive to share what we discover with others. But a turning point took place in 2015 after a chronic illness stopped our coaching, publishing and events business in its tracks. After a year just trying to survive, we asked ourselves, “what is our legacy?” We could no longer meet our clients or run our events, but we were determined to find a way to reach people, even from within our limited circumstances. We dove into learning how we could continue to teach and serve from home (which is something many others began experiencing in 2020), and the first opportunity we discovered was online course. We converted our workshops and training programs into online video courses and later turned that same content into books.

Learning how to package our knowledge into content that we could make available to anyone, anywhere, was what saved our business. In fact, not only did it allow us to rebuild our business bigger than before, it also expanded our reach, and today we have served almost 500,000 students from 200 countries and territories around the world.

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

Shortly after failing my (Joeel) first year of college my brother passed away in a car accident. His death instilled a greater purpose within me, and I vowed to one day open a youth center to honor him, which I did. I returned to college to study psychology and graduated with a Master’s Degree with honors.

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

After having so much success with our digital courses, we have been excited to publish our top-selling programs as print and digital books, too! We have found that individuals each have their own preference for how they consume their content. What this means is that the audience who reads books is not always the same audience who would take an online course. So, our strategy is to make our content available in as many formats as possible, including podcasts, YouTube videos, online courses, books, ebooks, and now we’re even publishing audiobooks, too.

In addition to continuing to publish our self-help style books, we are also working on a dual memoir which will tell both of our stories, before we met and since, as well as the powerful lessons we have learned about mindset and execution along our entrepreneurship journey.

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?

The number 1 most important factor that has allowed us to thrive through adversity and create a life we love is our MINDSET, which we developed over two decades of relentless devouring of psychological and personal development material and life circumstances that necessitated the application of what we learned. As a result, we are passionate about helping people understand the power of their mind.

No one teaches this stuff in school. And most parents are not equipped to teach their children emotional intelligence and how to cultivate their potential. We decided it was a shame that the human mind does not come with an owner’s manual. So, we made one!

(Book passage below)

You were probably never told that you are the owner of the most powerful machine on the planet — the human mind! It is what allow us humans to paint masterpieces, build modern marvels, make scientific discoveries, and learn through books like this one. But unfortunately, our minds don’t come with an instruction manual. Most people never reach their potential because their machines — the most powerful tool they will ever have — inherited faulty programming. But it’s not their fault — they were never taught how their mind works, how to reprogram it, or how much power they have to create the lives they want.

You were probably never taught that you have the ability to change ANYTHING about yourself — your level of intelligence, your talent, your abilities, and your personality.

You were probably never taught that you have the ability to control your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and you certainly weren’t taught how.

You may have been told you could be or do anything you wanted when you grew up, but you never believed it (and neither did the people who told you this). You were surrounded by people who settled in life, who were unhappy, who were dysfunctional and who, unfortunately, passed the beliefs and patterns of thinking that got them there onto you.

Now you’re grown up and you have a million thoughts that run through your mind that make you doubt yourself and believe your dreams aren’t possible.

Like most people, you’ve got a monkey mind that’s always negative and distracting you from creating the life you want.

It’s time to give your monkey mind a banana.

The #1 most important thing you could ever understand about yourself is that your thoughts are what create your emotions. That’s right, even though it seems like the situations or people around you are causing you to feel a certain way, the truth is that it is what you THINK about the situation that causes your emotion.

Knowing this gives you your power back because through this book you can learn how to CHOOSE YOUR THOUGHTS. By doing so you can control your emotions and ultimately create your destiny.

But here’s the bad news… this super-computer you have, this human mind, it’s flawed. Your thinking has the power to transform your life! But without training, the human mind is extremely IRRATIONAL and can wreak havoc on your happiness and behaviors.

That stops today! You’re holding in your hands the Human Mind Owner’s Manual that you never knew existed.

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?

Whether it is our online courses or our books, what has allowed us to get our content in front of nearly 1 million people is not that we are the best authors or teachers in our niche, it is our mindset that made us successful.

The following three characteristics are what we believe are the keys to success as an author or in any business endeavor.

  1. Be a Learner: Being a successful author about is more than being a good writer, it’s also about selling yourself, enlisting the right support, and developing the entrepreneurial skills necessary to sell books. For most of us, we have a passion, some nuggets of wisdom, or a powerful story that calls to be shared with the world, but we don’t know how to get published, self-publish, or market a book. No matter who you are or how you publish, to be an author means to learn the game of selling books. For this reason, being a learner is an absolutely vital trait, and this doesn’t mean simply having the ability to learn, it means actively seeking out the knowledge and skill you will need to make your dream of being an author (or whatever you dream of being) a reality.
  2. Be Tenacious: As an author, there were be many steps between sitting down with a pen or keypad to start getting your thoughts on paper and the finished product into the hands of your readers. You’ll need to overcome procrastination and writer’s block. You’ll need to schedule time into your busy life for your writing and improve your writing skills. You’ll need to research how to get published or self-publish, as well as take the steps to hire agents, editors, and designers. You’ll need to learn how to market books, both online and in person, and then implement what you learn. Almost every part of this journey will challenge you and provide ample novelty, as you’ll constantly be doing something that is new to you. There will inevitably be mistakes and failures and points of confusion along the way, which is why being tenacious — having an I-will-figure-it-out attitude and the fortitude to not give up — is absolutely vital.
  3. Be Opportunistic: So, at this point you’re on a quest to learn and you’re committed to seeing it through. Maybe you even have your transcript finished and are on the path to publishing. Go you! So, now what? Whether you publish traditionally or yourself, marketing your book will be your responsibility. This is where being opportunistic comes in. This does not mean waiting around for opportunities to come to you and then taking advantage of them. It means actively seeking opportunity. Specifically, the opportunity we are talking about is the need that exists in your target market that your book can fill. To sell a book (or any product), you must understand who your intended audience is, what problem or need they have, and how your book can serve this need. When you get clear on who your ideal readers are you can dig deeper to understand more about them, such as their related interests and where they are (in person and online). By knowing this, you can take advantage of the opportunities that exist to serve your people and connect to them through marketing. And if you don’t know how to do this, you can go back to #1.

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?

Our case is a little unusual. We did not write a book and then gain any form of success because of it. In fact, we did the opposite. We built a business first, then wrote a book. More specifically, we created online courses — dozens of them — becoming known as an expert in our field because of our courses rather than books. Then, we started publishing books based on our courses.

Most authors do this the other way around, meaning they create a book and then one day end up creating an online course that corresponds to it. We flipped this!

In fact, we believe with the tremendous growth of the online course industry, having a course that demonstrates your expertise on your topics will become the “new book” in the not-so-distant future.

This could also be great for the authors, as in our experience it is MUCH easier to sell a course than a book.

We sure hope courses become the new “golden ticket” because if courses were seen through the same lens of authority as books, we’d be the “published authors” of nearly 70 of them.

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?

Being a content creator has made it so that we don’t have to chase opportunities but instead opportunities come to us. We have had the opportunity to speak at major events and work with many organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and educational institutions. Often, the way these organizations find us is through our content.

That’s why we believe there is no better way to establish credibility as an expert in your field or niche than to create long-form, comprehensive content that demonstrates the best of your wisdom, experience, or creativity. Even if you’re never a best selling author, there is universal respect for authors because for most people, simply writing a short article about a topic is an overwhelming feat. To accomplish the publishing of a book shows both that you’re tenacious enough to complete such a challenging project and that you have enough to say to fill an entire book!

More than anything, to be a thought leader you have to, well, share your thoughts! In the same way, to develop a brand you have to put yourself out there and connect to your audience. Writing a book (or creating content in other ways) is the perfect way to share your wisdom with the world, reach your people, and create an additional revenue stream, too.

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?

A decade ago when we first dreamed of becoming published authors, we made the same mistake most authors make, which is believing that the book would sell itself. We were surprised to find out that even if we were to be published by a large traditional publishing house we, the authors, would ultimately be fully responsible for marketing our book. We wanted our books to be read by more than our family and friends. So, we decided not just to self-publish but to start a publishing company. Ironically, when we started Transformation Publishing we ended up publishing other authors’ books, but our book got put on the back burner. It wasn’t until many years later, after having success as course publishers, that we finally started publishing our own books. Having an established business and existing followers has given us a big head start when it comes to marketing our books but, alas, there is still much to learn and implement to continue to improve at selling books!

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?

For us, the promotional strategy that has been the most successful is speaking. Whether at a live event, a podcast, or a virtual event, speaking put us in front of a larger audience in a shorter period of time. Plus, when speaking we had an opportunity to demonstrate to the audience the value we could offer by sharing great content, and it gave them a chance to know, like and trust us, which is a key to getting customers.

In order to effectively use speaking to sell your book, you first need to be super clear about who your target audience is. A lot of authors feel like their book would be enjoyed by anyone, but in reality your words will speak to a very specific audience. Once you know who that market is, you can look for organizations and people who are already connected to that target audience and set up a means of speaking to them. A few questions you can ask yourself to start thinking of where your audience may be include: what forums or groups do they belong to? What podcasts do they listen to? Who do they already do business with?

As far as hiring an expert to assist in marketing our book, this is a journey we have just recently started on and we can already say we wish we had done this sooner! For anyone who wants to become a well-paid, successful author and does not already have a massive following and marketing chops, we highly recommend embracing that learning is important but hiring the right team around you is just as necessary.

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.

4 of the 5 things an author needs in order to successfully promote and market a book are related to MINDSET. Only 1 is about the practical steps.

While most authors focus on the steps it takes to complete a manuscript or market a product, the authors who are successful are the ones who take the time to get clarity about what they’re offering, who it’s for, what it will take to get there, and how they will make it to the finish line.

  1. Your Gift: what unique knowledge or inspiration do you have to offer?
  2. Your Target Readers: who, exactly, is your book for and how can you connect to them?
  3. Your Goal: what are you wanting to accomplish with your book? Would you be happy just to birth it into existence? Do you want to become a best seller? Do you want to use it as a tool to increase your credibility? What impact do you want to make?
  4. The Roadmap: what is it going to take to get you to your goal, starting at the idea, through writing, publishing, and marketing? If you don’t know the answer, do the research, learn the strategies, and/or hire an expert.
  5. The Commitment: what are you going to do to hold yourself accountable, to make a plan and follow through with it? Are you going to hire a coach, join a writer’s club, go to a writing retreat? What time are you setting aside every week to work on your book, your learning, and/or your marketing?

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 🙂

We would love to sit down with T.D. Jakes to discuss his new book Don’t Drop the Mic and how authors, content creators, and leaders have a moral obligation to put themselves out there and use the power of their words to make a positive influence on the communities they serve.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Connect to us and check out our online courses and books at www.transformationacademy.com

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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