My August author is a dynamo of energy, enthusiasm, and personality. She is multi-talented, writing, editing, publishing, and presenting at conferences, both in person and now in the virtual arena. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to introduce this lovely woman to all of you. Please welcome Valerie J. Coleman to the writer’s circle for this dog-day month that finds us still hunkering in place and longing to be out and about again.
Janet Irvin: Valerie, thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to visit with me and share your writing journey and expertise with us.
You are a writer and a publisher. Let’s begin with the writing. What in your background inspired you to pen your first book?
Valerie J. Coleman: I wrote my first book, Blended Families An Anthology, after twelve years of struggling as a stepmother. Although I had a horrible experience, I knew families with great success. As an alternative to incarceration (I was at the point of write-the-book-or-go-to-jail), I compiled this book to inspire people challenged with combining biological and non-biological family members. I learned strategies to move differently with my stepdaughter, I understood my husband’s I’m-stuck-in-the-middle perspective and discovered that you can disinherit your biological children if you do not have a will in a stepfamily. Birthed out of my pain, this book has reached six continents, hit numerous bestsellers lists and most importantly, changed thousands of lives.
JI: How much did you know about book publishing before your first venture into writing?
VJC: Several years before I published Blended Families An Anthology, I worked with first-time author, Vanessa Miller Pierce. She asked me to assist her with the business side of books including cost control, inventory management and logistics. I transitioned my engineering problem-solving skills to save her—and ultimately my clients and me—thousands of dollars. To advance my knowledge of the industry, I attended conferences, networked with seasoned professionals and researched. I learned lots; however, the most-effective teaching tool was actual publishing which revealed the intricacies of producing a quality book.
JI: What was the biggest help to you as you wrote? The biggest hindrance?
VJC: I write from personal experience so my process is organic. To enhance the experience, I create an atmosphere conducive to creativity including aromatherapy, music and a sound machine to simulate moving water. As for my biggest hindrance, I am left-brain dominant so switching from analysis, critical thinking and problem solving to right-brain creativity, feelings and emotions is challenging. I have to remind myself to write (right brain), not edit (left brain).
JI: Why did you decide to transition to the publishing side of the business?
VJC: While traveling with Vanessa, I met many authors who had overpaid for products and services, most of which were inferior. One author paid $150 for copyright filing, which only cost $30 at that time. That’s a 500% markup! She assumed filing was a tedious process that required an attorney; however, it is a simple online submission. I spoke with authors who spent $15,000 for 100 copies, writers tricked out of money by shady service providers and people who gave up on their dream of being published authors out of fear, frustration or finances. Since teaching is my gift and I love helping others through my experiences, I launched Pen of the Writer.
Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” My vision for Pen of the Writer is to teach people how to successfully self-publish books comparable in quality to those of traditional publishing houses while minimizing costs and maximizing profit.
JI: You are so very focused and extremely active online and (pre-COVID) with speaking engagements. How do you deal with the demands of your career?
VJC: I have several strategies that help organize my business:
Instead of trying to balance the demands of small-business ownership in my head, I use a weekly planner (paper, not digital). By identifying blocks of time for tasks, it frees me to be creative, keeps the vision in front of me, and reinforces goals.
I use scheduling tools like Acuity Scheduling and Pipedrive to coordinate meetings, confirm POWER Kids interviews, and manage client projects. These customer relationship management (CRM) tools and QuickBooks Self-Employed streamline my efforts for better efficiency. QuickBooks is by far my favorite because it transformed the behemoth tasks of bookkeeping and tax filing into manageable chunks so I could eat the elephant one bite at a time.
The third secret is delegating tasks to stabilize business demands. I hired a virtual assistant who manages my social media, creates marketing copy, and promotes my events. I also outsource services and commission representatives to recruit attendees, advertisers and sponsors for my live events like POWER Book Fest and Free Your Mind and the Words Will Follow Writers Retreat.
Because of COVID, many of my speaking engagements were postponed or canceled. To ensure the stability of my business, I adapted by offering online courses and virtual presentations. If attendees are unable to attend PassionatePens.com courses live, the sessions are recorded for viewing at their convenience. I had plans to conduct author visits this school year for my children’s book, Oh, The Things I Can Be When I See Me (ThingsICanBe.com); however, I will probably do them via Zoom or other video conferencing software.
JI: I am so very impressed with your organizational and creative skills. I’m also interested in how you see the publishing arena. What changes have you experienced in the field over time?
VJC: What stands out most to me is the explosion of eBooks and audio books. Due to environmental concerns and technological advances, we are moving toward a paperless society. Books are following suit. Authors benefit by expanding a single product to create multiple income streams. That same technology yielded automatic fulfillment to Amazon and other online distributors. When I published my first book, I had to sign up as an associate to have my books distributed through Amazon. As customers placed orders, I had to confirm the order, print shipping/packing labels, prep the package and then take it to the post office. Today, I work with a premier digital printer that fulfills orders from thousands of online retailers. Fulfillment is streamlined and I receive monthly payments from the printer.
JI: How should new writers best approach the desire to publish?
VJC: Research the business to understand industry standards, locate reliable providers and master marketing. Too many authors are right-brain introverts who excel in writing, but fall short of the success they desire because they failed to develop a robust marketing plan. Writing consumes about 10% of your time, energy and money. Publishing about 30%, and marketing a whopping 60%. Without a plan to minimize expenses and maximize exposure, you’ll spend too much to publish without generating enough sales to recoup the expense.
To ensure your success, conduct competitive analyses. I used to take clients to major bookstores to assess books. With checklist and java in hand, we grabbed books in their genre. We compared cover design, page count, retail price and more. Today, you can conduct similar analyses without leaving home. Go to Amazon.com and then study the New York Times Bestsellers. With over 30 million books on Amazon, focus on the ones with proven sales to ensure you set a benchmark worthy of your book.
The fastest way to success as a self-published author is hiring a seasoned mentor. The right person will help you make quantum leaps by avoiding pitfalls, referring reliable service providers and producing a quality book to maximize your efforts and minimize your expenses. I serve my clients with years of experience and repeatable, proven results like book sales, paid speaking engagements and media attention. With offerings that span the continuum of do-it-yourself Self-Publishing Made Easy workbooks; to show-me-how-to-do-it mentoring and training; to do-it-for-me publishing with Queen V Publishing, thousands of writers are now published authors.
JI: What advice might you give to aspiring writers that would help their writing?
VJC: Working with writers and authors, I discovered that obstacles to writing are attributable to fear, focus or forgiveness. If you’re afraid that your book won’t be good enough or you’ll offend someone with your message, you block creativity. When you have not defined your message or audience, your thoughts are fragmented and scattered. If you harbor unforgiveness, you harden your heart and stifle creative energy. Address your fears, identify your focus and operate in forgiveness to release yourself to produce a masterpiece. If you email me at email@example.com, I will send you the 7 Protocols of Forgiveness and Forgiveness Prayer that I use to keep me centered and free to write.
JI: Do you have plans to write more books? Do you have anything coming out soon?
VJC: Yes. My children’s book, Oh The Things I Can Be When I See Me will be published in Spanish and hardback. I plan to do a children’s book with a boy as the main character to honor my sons and grandson.
I have several client projects scheduled to release later this year including a children’s book about eczema and an autobiography by a celebrity chef.
Once I gain headway on their projects, I will compile an anthology with stories from men of power, prominence and prayer. I will interview Denzel Washington, Bishop TD Jakes and other men of influence.
JI: That’s sounds wonderful. I can tell you are focused on the very things you advise others to do. Now, let’s do a few fun facts. How do you spend your “free” time? LOL
VJC: I spend way too much time in front of the television watching Judge Judy, thrillers and sci-fi.
JI: What is your favorite way to relax when you finish a project?
VJC: I don’t have a celebratory routine for project completion, but if I did, it would include a three-day getaway on a tropical island with room service and a 50-inch smart TV.
- Self-Publishing Made Easy – Master self-publishing to make money! Click here to launch your writing career!
- Pen of the Writer (POWER) Book Fest – two-day literary experience including writing workshops, interactive learning for children and author signings. If you’re a reader, writer or author, click here. To sponsor or advertise, click here.
- Oh, The Things I Can Be When I See Me – Samara and Lyric are cousins who love to visit their grandmother, MeMe. The girls talk about all the wonderful things they want to be. Their self-esteem and confidence grow as they learn about women who have done what they hope to do. Filled with historical pioneers and modern-day trailblazers, this picture book empowers girls of color by providing examples of successful women who look like them. Click here to get your autographed copy of the Feathered Quill Bronze Award winner! Featured on Atlanta’s 11 Alive News: https://youtu.be/tijbGvh2_qE
- The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box – Relationship advice that your father didn’t tell you and your mother didn’t know. Click here to get your autographed copy of this Amazon bestseller. For Kindle, click here; for Audible, click here; for Nook and other formats, click here.
- Blended Families An Anthology – A real account of life in a stepfamily because we are not the Brady Bunch! There’s a blessing in the blending! Click here to get your copy of this multi-bestseller. For Kindle, click here; for Nook and other formats, click here.
- Join the Facebook group for tip, strategies and writing challenges at https://www.facebook.com/groups/freeyourmindwritersclub
- For writing strategies, view https://www.facebook.com/penofthewriter/videos/vb.571247986/10156043973637987/?type=3
- For the intricacies of publishing: https://www.facebook.com/penofthewriter/videos/vb.571247986/10156060051057987/?type=3
- Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/penofthewriter/videos/vb.571247986/10156060161637987/?type=3
- For proven, repeatable marketing strategies https://www.facebook.com/penofthewriter/videos/10156093545557987/
Taking writers from pen to paper to published!