One of the first things I did as soon as Stephanie responded to my mail, was to click on her TEDx Talk video link. Her stories about giving, continents and oceans away, pulled at my heartstrings and resonated with me. I got goosebumps and teared up while listening to those stories. Later as I mulled over the power of her stories and their learnings, I realised that even in her first mail Stephanie taught me something—she made it super simple for me to watch her video because she added a link to her video in her email signature! It’s such a simple yet effective way to share what you do and it became one of the first things I learnt from Stephanie. The interview that followed taught me some more…
I love the idea of your book…how did you come across this idea and build on it?
The Giving Challenge was first. It began from what I call my Giving Journey. I started that journey in January 2011 and gave a gift every day for 522 days. Doing that led to so many cool experiences, stories and even after that I took a little break, I missed a day… but I continued on that journey. I was blogging a bit and people who read the blog just kept saying, ‘you should write a book, you should tell some of these stories, they are inspiring and encouraging!’
For a book, I didn’t even know where to start. There were so many questions and doubts. I didn’t know if anybody would ever read my book. I was terrible at writing and grammar. You know, if you think about writing a book, it’s very overwhelming, especially if you have never done it before. But if you break it down those little pieces, it becomes easier. So that’s what I did. I just went back through those stories.
Start with what you have
I had a bunch of stories, and I started just writing…finishing them out and then narrowing them in. As I sifted through them, I kept on thinking—what do I want in the book, what is different, what pulls on your heartstrings—that sort of thing. That’s how the first book came about. It was based on my personal experience that changed my life and I just knew it had the potential to change others’ lives too if they went on the same journey.
So, you already had a blog post and followers?
I didn’t have many followers and I wasn’t consistent on social media. I always say that social media is good and bad. I don’t like the time that it takes. You need to be consistent in your interaction. I don’t like those parts of social media but I did have a small following.
Plus, for me, my blog was more than just a document. It was about the whole journey and the different gifts and that sort of thing. My blog didn’t have many followers but the people who were there were faithful. I didn’t think it was very good writing but they liked what I wrote, they loved the stories I told, they liked my voice, enjoyed my humour, and they were always asking, “what is she going to do next?”
Wow, there you have it…That wonderful connection…you had all those people who connected with you, your voice and your story!
How many people were following your blog in the beginning and did you use any other channels after you published or while you were publishing? The reason I ask this, is that often authors keep saying, “Oh I don’t have enough people, should I publish?”
I would say, I am on social media but it hasn’t been a big strategy for me. I really use Instagram to connect to other like-minded people. It’s more about building relationships. When people connect on Instagram sometimes, they buy my book or they share it, or they end up buying 10 copies because they want to give it away!
So, I use Instagram to build relationships that are mutually beneficial in some ways. You know a lot of the people on my Instagram happen to be small business owners or other authors.
The reason I wrote my book was that I knew it would take my speaking to another level. At that time, I was looking at an agent I wanted to work with and they wouldn’t even look at you if you didn’t have a book. Writing a book gives you instant credibility. No matter how good or bad the book is, usually people see a book and say, “Oh, you have a book, so you must be an expert in whatever you are writing about.”
A lot of my sales come from speaking engagements and also building relationships with some businesses that align. If we have similar messages, then they use my book because it aligns with their message and that’s been another great way to get books out there.
That’s a wonderful idea, that’s what I often say—don’t look at other people who do books in your niche as your competition… they are your collaborators. If they have podcasts, go on them as guests. If you have podcasts call them on as guests, talk to them, engage with them. That’s how we build communities.
Exactly and you mentioned podcasts…it is funny because I kind of go in spurts. I had a big spurt when I was on a podcast every week and even if you connect to one good connection, it opens the door to something else or like you said a collaboration. Who knows what can happen!
You don’t need to think of media and sales all the time. Don’t get disappointed if something immediately doesn’t come back to you. I have been amazed because sometimes after six months or a year, somebody just starts following you because they heard something you said and the next thing you know you built trust with that person. That’s when they might amaze you by saying things like, “Hey, could you come and speak about this in my group or I want to hire you!”
Building this relationship takes time and so, I love to do podcasts. Over time, I have built some good relationships with some of the interviewers. They just happened and I never thought that they would lead to any opportunities but they did.
That’s what I feel is the essence of marketing or networking or anything you call it—it’s building relationships. It’s not just about going there and talking sales but really being your genuine self over there and showing some concern for the person’s day, their time…like we normally do with our friends.
Absolutely, and I think there’s another thing too… a lot of times, people go in with the wrong expectation. Whether it is social media or going on a podcast or speaking engagement, they go in without the correct expectation of what they are going to sell, who they are going to connect with or the impact that they are going to make.
When I get such an opportunity, I go in just being grateful.
Thinking about how you will give to the audience, to the interviewer, to the listener—is important. It may not come back to you through a purchase of your book, but you may make an impact in another way. For me, that was a big mindset shift that I had when I was on my giving journey. It was my daily goal—me…one person, looking for a way to make a difference in one another person’s life each and every day.
You can take that aspect into your business. So you say, “Hey I am going to get on a podcast today and if I impact just one person, then it will be worth it,” or, “you know if this week, I just sell one book and not a hundred.”
A lady recently messaged me and said that she read my book three times. She found it very helpful and that statement was powerful for me. I have built a relationship with that lady over the years. So I think that’s how it works for me. Of course, you have to weigh in the business aspect of it too. You can’t just say I can live on selling one book a week but you have to find your balance.
I hear you just keep taking the next step, it’s like the karma ideology we have in India, don’t do an action expecting fruit, just do the action. The fruit will follow. Doing your action is more important.
It’s true, I was with a client the other day, he is a professor and he’s going to retire soon. He’s spending a lot of time thinking about what he should do next. Should he write a book or do a podcast? There are a lot of options, and since I am a woman of faith, he told me that God lay a calling on his heart ten years ago. My question to him was, “what action have you taken?” He said that he has been analyzing and analyzing it for years. Over-thinking and over-analysis are problems. I see that so clearly when people get a book out and focus so much on the launch. They have a big launch day and then they stop because they are over-analyzing everything.
It’s all about taking action, even if it is just one a day.
Take one action every day whether that’s related to your book or your speaking gig. It will lead to 365 actions in a year, imagine their compound effect and the momentum they will create for you.
Wow! Love this. Getting back to your book…how did you come up with the idea of Giving every day?
I always say I was raised a giving gal. While I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money but my parents were very visible in the community. My dad was a volunteer firefighter and my mom was heavily involved in the church. She was always baking cookies and meals and taking it to people. That’s why I say I have that giving in me and it was something that I always carried on doing.
I read Cami Walker’s book 29 Gifts and that inspired me. She was going through a hard time, battling multiple sclerosis (a chronic neurological disease) and depression. One of her friends recommended to stop focusing on her problems and struggles and instead focus on giving a gift to someone every day for 29 days.
I forget where the idea of 29 days came from, but I am a big goal setter. I read that book in December and I thought to myself, “what if I set a goal to give a gift every day for a year, what would that look like?”
Think about it…the action of reading a book and then not only just reading, but taking it to heart and taking action, literally changed my whole life. It set it on a completely different trajectory. I have a children’s book coming out now, called The Giving Gal.
It’s now full circle here!
That’s amazing! The best part about your story is that you have kept the balance between the business and your faith and your desire to give. To be able to keep the balance is very important because I believe when you write your book, your passion comes through your writing. That’s what your reader is going to connect to especially since your book talks about giving and gratitude.
Yeah, that’s a good point you bring up. People know when you are being authentic and when you are not. Whatever your book is about, whatever your subject, especially if it is a non-fiction book then how are you continuing to live that out, is important.
For me, I can’t talk about gratitude and giving based on something I did back in 2011-2012. I have to continue living up to that aspect, to set that example… because when I ask you to go on a giving journey, to pick up this book and take the action or practice gratitude every day and you come to me and say “Stephanie, are you practising gratitude?”
If my answer is “No,” then why will you believe anything that I have to say?
So that’s what keeps me having that balance between business and writing books, by continuing to practice what I am preaching.
Let’s get back to the Author Platform. What campaigns did you do for the launch of your book?
So, I think the biggest thing and we talked about it earlier is relationships.
I see a lot of authors doing this and it works for some people…they make a social media post, put it in their newsletter and basically say, “hey come join me on my launch team.”
Not that I didn’t do those things but during my launches, I literally reached out individually, one-on-one to a hundred people. For the first book, I did a little bit more than the second book.
I reached out to 100 people. They were people whom I had built relationships with over the years and 99, no joke, 99 out of 100 said yes! The one that said no, ended up participating and buying the book anyway. That’s the power of relationships.
For my original launch, I created a Facebook group. I didn’t offer any incentive but because I own my own publishing company I was able to create a ‘buy one get one free’ offer. When someone bought a book, I was able to give him a second book which he could easily give away and get involved in social media that day. That was what my launch encompasses because I believe that there is not one day of launch. You are always launching your book. You are always talking about it and I think that’s a thing the authors forget especially self-published authors. Since, there is no accountability so they get excited, push the launch and then a lot of times book just sits in the shop and they never talk about it again. I believe you have to be constantly thinking about what you can do to get your message out and keep re-inventing yourself.
What all do you use as your author platforms?
I have a newsletter that I send out once a week and I am pretty consistent. I give myself a little grace and say send 45 emails in a year. I can miss some weeks but being consistent and building and just growing relationships with that audience is important. I started a podcast and that’s been more recent, Giving Your Best Life. It really ties into the subjects that I talk about, giving, gratitude goals with the foundation of faith and I do a lot of video series on YouTube. I constantly and consistently keep putting content out there. That’s how you get new people to follow you, get them to engage. A lot of times, the content I create is not even talking about my books, but it’s building the relationship. So when I talk about my book, they say, “Oh, she has a book out there…or I need a speaker.”
But all these things didn’t happen in the beginning. I just started my podcast over the last year. The first five years, when my first book was out, I never had a podcast because I didn’t have the ability and time. That’s why I say, just start doing where you can and where you are at. Do create your goals and aspirations for your future, but do what you can do, now.
Did you ever get overwhelmed by the idea that you have to do so many things to launch your book?
Yeah, I think it’s overwhelming every day, you know like right now our mutual friend Melinda (Melinda Tipton Martin Publishing). She and I are working on a children’s book, journal, I’ve got a ghost-writing project and I am working on my own non-fiction book. That’s a lot and it can get very overwhelming. Sometimes I shut down, you know like I owed stuff to the printer and I had to get the ISBN and some things. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do it, but you can get mentally blocked.
I spent two weeks, doing everything but the things I was supposed to be doing, and this is where having good accountability people in your life helps. They may not be authors, they can entrepreneurs and they get it. Yesterday, I sent a text to two friends in which I said that by tonight you have to check in on me to see if I have worked on this specific task. Sure, enough last night my friend texted me, “it’s 8 o’clock, are you working on it?”
You can get very overwhelmed, especially in the details, in the minutiae but I think it goes back to what I said, focus on taking action every day and that’s where you will see progress. I do a lot of planning. On Sundays I plan and every day I plan and prioritize and it’s constant chaos…but if you focus on just moving things forward because when you are moving forward is when you have those little wins that keep you doing the next thing and the thing after that. That sets the momentum in place.
So true about that. Which platforms are you on, on Instagram, on FB, you have a mailing list?
Yes, I got my mailing list. I am on Instagram, I am on Facebook, I have a Facebook group and I am on Linkedin, I don’t post much on LinkedIn. Those are probably the big ones I am involved in. I will say the most consistent place I am, is Instagram. That’s where I try to post every day and build relationships there.
It is interesting talking about over-analyzing. A month or two ago, I did a post on social media, it got 8000 shares, over a million impressions and I thought, ok, it was good for social media. I was debating whether I should share it in my newsletter and again over-analyzing it. Finally, I just decided because I didn’t have any other content, just copy-pasted. Repurposing is important and we often forget this. I can’t tell you how many people emailed me and said that was their favourite newsletter. I loved getting that feedback because here I almost didn’t even send it due to over-thinking. Be ok with repurposing and changing and what I love on Facebook is the memories pop up and I copy-paste the content and repost it and share and maybe change a little bit. It’s ok to do that. Everything doesn’t have to be new and fresh because if you are growing your audience, you have an audience that wasn’t there a year ago and they haven’t read those things you spoke about earlier.
Exactly, not everyone remembers…Tell me, what tools did you use to publish?
I have my own publishing company. I use Bowker for ISBNs, you have to use the Library of Congress to get the LOC number. I work with Melinda Martin and her publishing services for all my production work. Melinda and I joke because I asked her what is your title, what are you going to be called. “I am your production manager and designer,” she said because I literally just send her a word document and then we discuss the size and what it’s gonna look like. After that, she does her magic——all the formatting, the design of the book, preparing the book for print. I have an editing company that I work with, Platinum Editing literary services and I have become great friends with Michelle and Bethany who own that. They do all my editing, development editing, line editing and proofreading. It does take a team. I use a printer here in the US, TPS Printing. A book requires a lot of different resources and different skills.
I was on the phone the other day with a lady, she had written a book and I asked her, “ok, how have you edited it?” and she said that she didn’t feel it needed editing. When people say that I cringe because I don’t care how good a writer you are, if you want to put out the best product, your name is going on that, that becomes your business card sometimes. My editors have worked on every book of mine. That’s what makes my books so much better. You get what you invest.
How has your mailing list grown over the years, because this is something many authors are like, the mailing list is for many authors the mailing list is the most important.
Yeah, you know my mailing list mainly goes to speaking engagements. I actually have a little card that I developed, that I take to speaking engagements. I hand the cards out to people. It’s designed so that they just have to put their name, their address and do a little check box, like yes they are agreeing to subscribe to this. If I pass those out and have them on the table, I probably get 75-85% of the people to fill them. But if I leave them at my table, I may give 3 or 4 people, you know what I mean. People don’t fill it until you ask them to and a couple of weeks ago I forgot to ask and did not pass any. I missed 70 women. Sometimes you miss, but that’s how I’ve grown by being proactive.
I do agree. As a writer and a creative person for years, I resisted the idea of planning. That’s not me, I used to say, that’s those stuffed shirts I am not doing it. You see I was a banker before I started writing and it was like I am not going back there. Before covid, I used to write in a co-working space and I had a routine. Every single day was a routine. I would not shift from that routine and now I have started using a time planner, it helps me write, it helps me plan my day, I can visualize what I want to achieve within this month and the next month, so those things get done
Exactly, here I think the routine piece is key, which people don’t get.
I always skip the question from people on what’s your advice if I want to write a book and they say, ‘write consistently,’ like build it as part of your routine. Make it a priority and write consistently for at least 30 plus days.
I found a lot of people say they want to write a book but when it comes to building in and actually getting your butt in the seat and writing, they don’t follow through with it. But if you are not able to do the writing, then you need to rethink because launching, selling and everything behind it requires a long-term vision. Even if you do get a book done, if you are not consistently thinking about your business in selling every day, it’s going to fall off your radar, because 500 other things are going to come into your life, whether it’s personal or professional.
Want to know more about Stephanie:
Podcast: Giving Your Best Life
I am Nishka…
I call myself an Ideology Empath because I use my empath skills to understand my author’s ideas from their perspective and then weave those complex life-long learnings into an easily understood ideology for their expert book…
I have written 7 non-fiction books in different niches and plan to write many more…
Want some help?
Email me: Nishka@Nishkawrites.com
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Check my YouTube Channel. Subscribe and like:)