Use your book to attract clients - with Book Coach & Author, Ricki Heller
If "Write That Book"is on your list this year, you need to know something RIGHT NOW:
- a) it's a fantastic tool for business growth
- b) getting it onto the shelf requires support from editors and possibly a book coach.
So, meet triple threat Ricki Heller, an accomplished author, developmental editor, and book coach!
She sheds light on what you need to know to get your book into the hands of readers AND grow your business.
We talk about the
- crucial differences between developmental editing & book coaching - and why each is valuable to your writing process.
- art of book promotion, emphasizing the long-term strategy needed to keep a book alive
- immense opportunities for business growth having a book can bring.
Listen in to hear Ricki's actionable tips to leverage your book to attract clients, build credibility, and secure media coverage.
Look - it's not easy to maintain momentum while writing a book and feel excited about self-promotion.
So grab your headphones & enjoy the guidance Ricki offers right here!
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Hey, welcome to Content Creation Made Easy. I'm your host, Jen Liddy. Today is the second of a two-part series that I did based on a ton of research I did over the fall of 2023.
I had a few clients coming to me saying that they had written a book or wanted to write a book or are in the middle of writing a book and they wanted help with their marketing.
So I had dived into researching everything about book writing, book marketing, book publishing, and I learned that it's an enormous, enormous world.
But I wanted to share with you two of the biggest takeaways that I learned in my research because you might be thinking, “I have a book in me” and it might be a non-fiction book filled with your expertise or your signature framework or your story.
Whatever book might be broiling inside you, one of the things that could keep you from doing it is the belief that ‘I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know if people need my book. I don't know who to hire.’
So in the previous episode right before this one, I did an interview with Annie Schiffman, who owns a media company and she's a social media strategist, and she wrote a book called Simple Social Media.
In that episode, we talked all about why somebody would write a book, what it actually takes to write a book and to get your ideas down.
We also talked about the framework that she outlines in her book, the PAGER Method for Simple Social Media.
But beyond writing your book, there's this enormous world of people who can help you with it. And there's all different kinds of people that can help you before, during, and after.
And I wanted to focus on the kind of people that help you during, which are editors. And so today, I'm talking to my friend, Ricki Heller.
Ricki and I have known each other for a long time. And she is an author, a bestselling author. She's written several different kinds of books and her books are very popular, but she's now an editor.
And she talks about the different kinds of editors that you might need or encounter as you're writing your book. Like the difference between copy editing and line editing is something that we dive into here.
Ricki is a developmental editor. And what the hell does that mean, and why would you use that? But basically, when you're writing a book, you're probably going to need to partner up with some people to help you stay on track, weed out the words that don't need to be there.
Keep things really cohesive and clean and focused. And that's what Ricki and I talk about today, the different types of people who can help you in the middle of writing your book.
This is a valuable conversation if you're thinking about ‘Who do I even hire to help me get these ideas out and make sure they're cohesive so my audience can understand them?’ That's what you're gonna wanna listen to today.
Enjoy and let me know what you think. Leave a comment or a review and I so appreciate you being here. And I really enjoy doing this little deep dive into the world of books and publishing and authorship and all things that have to do with it.
And if you have a book in you for 2024, I just wanna say, put it on your list of things to make real because it is 1000% a possibility for you.
So many people are writing books and getting them published and getting them sold. Don't think you can't do it, don't count yourself out. Okay, I'll see you on the other side of the conversation. Bye.
Hey. Hey. Welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. I'm Jen Liddy, your host. And today, I have an old friend with me who's now a colleague in the book arena, Ricki Heller.
Ricki, I've asked to be on because she wears a couple of different hats in the book world, she is not only her own published author, but she is a developmental editor and a book coach.
And so I wanna just tell you about Ricki because it's pretty incredible. She not only works collaboratively with clients to help them create their clear writing and capture their voice.
She's a doctor, by the way, and she has authored 4 books, including Sweet Freedom, which, PS, was recommended by Ellen DeGeneres.
Her work has appeared in countless magazines and newspapers like Shape, Clean Eating Magazine, The Globe, Ed Mail, The Toronto Star, BuzzFeed, One Green Planet, the Huffington Post.
So we're talking to somebody who has some clout here. And I wanted to talk to Ricki because I wanna talk about the experience of what it is to be a developmental editor and a book coach.
And then also from her perspective on the inside, what is it like to have to market your own books? So we're gonna talk about all of these things today. So, Ricki, I just wanna say thanks for being here. I'm excited to dive in.
Thank you for having me. What a great intro.
Thanks. Let's start by talking about your well, there's kind of a long journey because you are an author, and then from the book came some of your coaching work.
And then now you're working on the other side helping other people. Right? So I would love to hear about how you got to this place of being a book coach and a developmental editor.
I'll try to keep it short because, you know, I'm old. I have a long history of that. So I think, as you know, I taught English at the college level for, like, 25 years.
And then because of my own illness, I studied holistic nutrition, and I started coaching in that field and I did that for 12 to 14 years. And I had quit my teaching job in the interim.
And then around the 2nd year of the pandemic, I just had this moment. I was clearing through my computer files because, you know, we're all home and had time to do that kind of stuff.
And I came across this folder that said ‘Drafts’ on it. And when I opened it up, there were 3 dozen short stories and articles that I had started years before planning to publish, never did anything with, and it just literally hit me like a lightning bolt.
Like, I have to get back to words. I have to get back to writing, something in that field. And because of my own history teaching English, it made sense to do editing.
And then just serendipitously, I was having a conversation with a colleague, she had just finished a book, and she said, “I want you to edit my book.”
And so I said, “Okay.” And that's kind of how it all started, but I just knew I had to get back into the field of words and writing.
And as I've been doing this, I realized that this really is the area that I was meant to be working in. So, I've been doing this for just almost 3 years and absolutely loving it.
When you say she wanted you to edit it, when I think of editing, I think of one thing, but you're a developmental editor, which is another thing. So when somebody says ‘I want you to edit my book,’ what does that mean?
Well, I think she meant what most of us think of, which is ‘I want you to correct the sentences and the grammar’ and make sure, you know, which I actually ended up doing for her book, and that just helped me realize I don't wanna be a copy editor.
Copy editing. Right.
Right. But I also did the developmental editing. So what that means is you think of somebody taking, like, a bird's eye view of your book and looking at the structure and the organization in general.
So if someone comes to me with a manuscript. And we can talk about what happens if they don't have any writing done yet. But if they already have a complete manuscript, that's where developmental editing comes in.
And so I would read the whole thing and provide feedback in terms of how does it hold together. What about the organization? Maybe this chapter needs to be moved over here, or are there parts of the book that really are superfluous?
They don't serve any particular purpose because I think what happens so often is and it's a cliche to say, but especially with first time authors because, like when I wrote my 1st book, you don't know if you're gonna write another one.
So you wanna put everything you know into that 1st book. Right? So a developmental editor will say, this doesn't really help forward the message. Let's take this out, or we're missing something here. So all of those kinds of structural things.
And then the other thing that a developmental editor will do is look at the voice coming through. So does this sound like you, or is it because you think you need to be formal when you're writing?
Or, maybe in this part of the book, you're using a lot of industry jargon, but not in the rest of the book. Let's make it sound like you, the person, and make the writing as clear and concise as possible so that it's a really easy read for the reader and flows smoothly from beginning to end.
So you have to have a brain that can work on a project kind of from 30,000 feet up and see all of the parts and pluck this part out and put it back over here. The other thing I imagine you'd have to do is, people are very precious about their writing.
I know it's a very vulnerable thing to share so then you have that other piece of, like, having to give this news about, “Well, this isn't quite working. We have to move this around.” Is that hard too?
Yeah. And I think that's where my previous coaching experience really comes into play. Being able to speak to someone in a way that is really mindful of their feelings.
And the other thing to keep in mind is with a developmental editor, it's very different from a copy editor where it's correct grammar or incorrect grammar, or correct spelling or incorrect spelling.
With a developmental editor, really, I'm providing my suggestions for what I think will improve the book and make it the best it can be.
But ultimately and always, it's the author's final decision of what stays and what goes. You know? It has to feel good for them.
How is that different from the hat you wear as a book coach?
So a book coach is quite different because a book coach works with someone who's developing the book, who's writing the book in process.
And it can go from the point where “I just have this vague idea. Maybe I want to write a book. I'm not sure what I wanna write about.”
I can help people to take that chaos of ideas and create some order and come up with, say table of contents because people hate the word outline, but it's an outline.
A way to organize your ideas so that you have this plan and then you can go off and write it. And we work that way with people. But the other thing that I do is in process.
So I think writing a book, people understand you're taking on a pretty major endeavor. But I think what happens is, like any new project, I think about exercising and joining the gym in January.
We're really, really excited when we get the idea and lots of motivation in the beginning. And then as we're going at it every single day, we might lose some of that initial momentum.
And what a book coach can do is keep you on track, keep you writing consistently. It's very similar to the developmental editing in the sense that we provide feedback as you go, and there's a chance to discuss what you're doing, but also support, cheerleading, guidance, all of those things, and accountability.
So then I wanted to move into talking about all of this work that goes into writing the book from the ideation to the actual keeping the momentum going, getting the feedback, not melting down when you get the feedback.
And then you have this product, and then you have to get it out into the world, which is where my huge interest comes in because I feel this is a place where there's a little bit of a field of dreams happening here.
If I build it, they will come into a situation, like, “I've got the book out there. Why isn't it just selling itself?” So I would love to hear you talk about your experience with the marketing piece, the beyond.
Yes, there's the launch, but all of the promo stuff that happens before, during, and after the book is launched, I would love to hear about because I know you've been self published and also traditionally published, so I would just love for you to talk about the marketing piece.
For sure. I mean, it's very similar as you were saying. If I slap up a website with my business and I don't do anything to promote it, who's gonna find the website? Right? It's very similar with the book.
People do not just come. You have to make them aware of the book. But the one thing I'll say initially is that I think I didn't realize and most people don't realize is marketing has to begin even before the book is finished, never mind published.
When you start writing your book, I would say that's the best time to start your marketing.
Many of your clients actually do that. I'm just curious. Sorry to interrupt, but I really wanted to put a pin in that because I hear this a lot from people in the book industry.
The best time to start marketing is when you start writing, but how many of your clients actually have the brain space or energy to think about that.
Interestingly, I mean, it depends on the client. So most of my clients are people who run online businesses. And so they're well aware of the fact that they need to make people aware of the book.
So one of my clients, for instance, she started talking about it almost immediately. She has a podcast as well. She started talking about it on her podcast, but it's just seeding the idea for people, right?
So you leave little clues here and there that “I'm working on something really exciting for you guys,” or, as it gets closer and closer, “I can't wait to share my book with you.” There are things like the cover reveal that come up, that kind of thing.
So if you, and again, because when I did this for myself, with my self published book, I didn't know any of this stuff, to be honest. So it was really very organic what I did.
At the time, my food blog was pretty popular. So I had a pretty large audience that had asked me for this 1st cookbook, Sweet Freedom. And so it was instinctive.
I created a wait and interest list for the book. So people sent me their emails, if they were interested in the book, you can create a wait list or an interest list that way.
I also asked for people to help me launch it. So like a launch team, and we had a private Facebook group, and I gave them some private Zoom. I don't know if it was Zoom at the time.
You know? I gave them some private videos on how to prepare some of the recipes or new or special recipes just for them that no one else got.
I think there was an ebook at the end that none of the people who purchased the book would receive, but only the launch team received.
And with my first book, I had about a 100 other bloggers who were on the list to help you with the book. So if you have contacts yeah. That was really the heyday of food blogs so I'm not sure that people would still be doing that same sort of thing.
You might wanna find other outlets. But the idea is to tap your network as much as you can to help promote the book and to just talk about it. And this is even before the book is published.
And then once the book is either published or very close to publication, that's when you can send out the ARCs, the reader versions of the book before publication.
And people can either write about it on their blog, talk about it on social media, or share their excitement for the book coming out. You can ask your audience to do that for you, just have some giveaways and people will be interested in that kind of thing.
So it's leveraging your own network as much as you possibly can. And this would be I would say this would be whether self published or publisher published. That's a good thing to do.
Yeah. I wanted to talk a little bit about that. I'm finding from people I'm talking to that there's a mis-assumption that people are making that if you are traditionally published, that you can count on your publishing house doing the marketing for you and doing the heavy lift.
And I know that you've got experience on both sides, so I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit.
Yeah. Don't count on that, I will say. If you're JK Rowling or Stephen King, maybe. But here's the thing. The publishing industry itself has changed so much since print on demand came into play and ebooks and all this kind of thing.
I can even tell you the difference between when I first started blogging as a food blogger and today or when I published my last book.
I remember one of my colleagues when things were just starting and some of the first food bloggers were getting books published with publishers, they would have tours across the US where they'd go to bookstores and sign books and whatnot.
The publisher would pay for them to travel around and do that. By the time my books were published, I think my last cookbook was published in 2015, none of that was covered by the publishers.
So if you wanna do a book tour, it’s on you. And because they're now so overworked, they don't have as many staff, their budgets are smaller and there's so much competition, I think as I was saying to you before, when your book comes out, there's a 3-month window during which the publisher will promote your book and perhaps a little bit leading up to that.
So they will do their best to get you coverage in print media, on radio, television, whatever it may be, podcasts.
But don't forget that their PR person on staff is also promoting every other book that came out at the same time. They have cycles where you’re editor as well.
Like when I work with someone as a developmental editor, I'm their editor. They can contact me anytime. We can exchange emails. We have personal feedback all the time.
When I was working with the developmental editor who worked on my books with the publisher, I would sometimes email her with a question, I wouldn't hear back for a week because she's overwhelmed.
And it's not their fault. Right? So in this case, they'll do their best, but whatever comes of it comes of it. And I think it's different depending on your book's topic, how popular the topic is, how much the public is interested in it, your platform, how much they want to invest in you as a writer.
But at the end of 3 months, it's literally you're off the cliff. It's over. That's it. There's no more. So for instance, my book, Living Candida Free, which was the last one that came out, until recently, and it's because I've stopped talking about it, it remained in the top 10 for Candida books on Amazon because I would mention it on my stories, or I would be cooking something at home and say, this Comes from Living Candida Free, and so somebody would buy it that week.
You know, people would continue to hear about it. And, certainly, you should be doing that kind of thing. You should be reminding your readers that your book exists.
This is a little bit off topic, but just to give an example, I don't know if you've read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.
He's the Chicken Soup for the Soul author, and he and his coauthor, which no one seems to know he had a coauthor, Mark Victor Hansen, who is not quite so public.
So Jack Canfield wrote a book called The Success Principles and in it, it's all about how to be a successful entrepreneur, but he talks about how they marketed Chicken Soup for the Soul.
So how they got it published was one story. It took forever. Nobody wanted it. Finally, they got it published, and it was a smashing success.
Most people think it hit The New York Times at that point, because it was such a success. But what they actually did was they marketed it themselves at a grassroots level.
And when the book came out, it sold, but it wasn't what they had hoped for. So the 2 of them agreed that each week for 1 year they were going to give a copy of the book to 5 people that they felt could share it with someone else.
Even if it was just their barber or the guy who runs the newspaper stand, anybody who might enjoy the book who could then tell somebody else.
And after doing that for a year, it shot up to number 1 in the New York Times bestseller list. So even they had to do some legwork and work on it. Right?
And if you do that kind of thing, then your book will become known, and that's how you get your book into the hands of people who can then bring it to number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
When you talk to your clients, whether it's as a developmental editor or the book coach client, does talking about marketing come into your conversation with them, and I would love to hear what some of their thoughts are when you do bring it up.
Yeah. It depends. Obviously, some of my clients have ended up acquiring contracts with traditional publishers, in which case, they're still working with them.
And one of my clients who has a pretty big contract, I think they're going to invest quite a bit in her marketing, so I haven't heard from her.
But other clients; the one who was in The New York Times, for instance, hired someone to help with her marketing when she was first published.
And so we did have a discussion about what's the best way. She had a pretty big network because of her podcast, and she has a membership and so on.
So she definitely leveraged everything that she could do. But at one point, she also wanted to try to get into larger outlets. And so she hired a PR person. And I I think I told you that I did as well. Right?
Yes. I wanted to talk about that. So PR, publicist, are these interchangeable, words for the same type of help?
Yeah. It's a PR firm, and you hire a publicist from the PR firm. So in my most recent book, I knew because my previous book had also been with a conventional publisher, and I kind of knew how it was gonna go.
So I decided to hire someone, and I hired someone I could afford to the extent of my budget. I'll just say there you could spend an unlimited amount of money on a publicist.
Because they usually have a retainer, a certain amount for, let's say, a 3-month period or even a 1-month period. You pay them. But here's the thing. They never guarantee that anything will happen.
And it's interesting. I just heard from a PR firm that contacted me that wanted to see if I wanted to work with them that has a model where they don't get paid until you get placement.
Very smart, because again, they can't guarantee. So when I hired the 1st person, she was great at getting bloggers to talk about my book.
In this in the most recent instance, she was someone who had a little more media contacts because it all depends on who their contacts are.
So I did get some television spots. I got a few radio interviews, some podcasts. And I think I had one instance where, if a publicist gets you coverage in a publication, usually, you do the writing.
You would have to create the article that they'll then put in there. Previously, if it's a cookbook, they might publish your recipe and write a little bit about the book, so you can get that kind of coverage.
But that's really as far as it goes. I think anything else is up to you.
Yeah, I love this messaging because I think it's something that we need to be overt about in creating awareness for authors. You almost have to create your own edge to get your book into the hands of readers, which is why you wrote the book in the 1st place.
I find that a lot of writers are highly introverted, and so the idea of having to get on social media or maybe having to gladhand at events can be exhausting to them, but, I feel like you can make a marketing plan that works for your personality, I was wondering what your experience with that was.
Absolutely. I was gonna say with my first book, I am an introvert. I'm extroverted when I'm on screens or at a microphone. But in person, I'm an introvert.
And so, what happened there, and this is also one of the things that's great about writing a book if you have a business or if it's connected to a business, is that it can be a great calling card for you as a professional.
So not only do you get in front of the eyes of more potential clients, but in terms of professional gigs so for instance, let's say my first book, Sweet Freedom, I did a few workshops where I talked about baking sugar free or baking without gluten because that's what the book was about.
But you could do a workshop at a local community center or a small business group or anything that's related to your topic. And then from that, you can often find that your sales increased because the people are interested.
They've seen you speak. They've heard some of your information. They're happy to buy your book, so always bring your books with you when you go to these places.
What some people do if they sign with a larger group, maybe you're speaking to one of these Lunch and Learns at a business or something where there's 50 or a 100 people in the room, you can make purchasing 50 copies of the book part of that contract.
So the business now is paying for the book, but they're buying that many copies. And people sell lots of books that way too.
That's so smart. One of the things I wanted to dive into a little bit more is the idea of using your book, not just to sell the book to make money, but also how it can give your business wings or bring people back into your business.
Yes. Because I think If people are writing the book solely to make some money from the book, they're going to be very disappointed.
Well, because I mean, I don't know if you wanna talk about how much you actually earn from a book in terms of royalties?
So with a self published book, you actually earn more per book because you're publishing it, and the royalty is, if you go with something like, KDP, Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing, I think 70% is the royalty for the cost of the book.
However, with a publisher, and once you have a royalty contract, royalties are often based, first of all, on the wholesale price of the book. And a really good royalty for a first time author is 10%.
Like, that's unbelievably high. So just to give you an idea, my book Living Candida Free, I think I was earning about $1.80 per book, something like that.
So you have to sell a lot of books. Right? It’s the advanced where people often get the big chunk of money from. But it's not the money. However, first of all, it's the credibility.
Even though so many people say they wanna write a book. Apparently, 80% of the population says they'd like to write a book. 2% of those 80% actually write the book. And then how many publish it, right?
So it's still a very small number. So even with self publishing and all of that. So if you have actually published a book, you're already raising your status and your credibility.
So people still want to hear from someone who has published a book. And in terms of being a guest on podcasts, more often than not, if you have a book, it's much easier to get booked on a podcast, for instance. Or television shows and all those things.
So it really helps with exposure and just people being able to learn about you. I mean, when I was on Canada AM, that day, I sold a ton of books because, you know, it's got 3,000,000 audience or whatever it was.
So those kinds of events are great for selling books. Or like I said, when you go to a business and you speak to people, you're gonna sell more books that way.
So it's good for your business in that way. But the thing that surprised me with my most recent book, as you know, was called Living Candida Free, and I was a Candida coach.
I had been working with people who read my blog or people who knew about me. I did have clients. However, once my book came out, that's when people started contacting me to say, how can I work with you?
Because first of all, if you think about how you read a book, you're usually sitting in your own home. It's just you and the author.
It's like a one to one, and you feel like you're really connecting with that human being. And I think that allows people to get a sense of whether or not they wanna work with you more so than seeing 90 seconds on Instagram or whatever.
It would take longer with something like Instagram. So I did have a real surge in my business as a result of having published that book.
I just love how no nonsense you are about this. Because I feel that sometimes when people start talking about marketing, especially something that's so dear to somebody like the book that they’ve written, they can get a lot of feels around it.
Maybe resentment like, “Oh my god. I can't believe I have to do marketing” or “It feels so salesy.”
But I love that you're just like, “Look. This is a part of being an author that we need to be talking about a lot earlier in the process”, and you've given us some really wonderful, very clear tangible ideas that obviously work for your personality.
Is there any last piece of advice or something that I haven't thought to ask that you feel like authors really need to know about marketing their book and getting it into the hands of readers?
I think it's about marketing, but also about the whole process.
The one thing that I think stops people from finishing the book, from effectively marketing the book, promoting it, is they really lose the belief in themselves that they can do this.
Once you start comparing yourself to other people or so and so's book did this well and who am I to write a book, then you're doomed.
So you need to really know that you can do it and that people want to know what you have to say. They really, really do.
And they need it. You probably wrote the book because your audience freaking needs to hear it.
Exactly. And even if it's the same topic as something that someone else wrote, it's not your perspective on that topic. Right?
There were books on Candida when I wrote my book, but the people who resonated with my story and my message are the ones who bought my book. And they really needed it.
Like I said, people who were contacting me to say, “How can I work with you?” because something in that book touched them, and it resonated with their own story. And just to remember that.
Yes, there's one thing I wanna just circle back to before we leave, which is you mentioned that sometimes in your Instagram stories, you'll mention the recipes you like, you do such a great job with your stories of showing people how to cook.
You know, the thing that you're cooking I just happened to be cooking today. And that you reference your book. And I love that just because your book has launched and has been out for a few years, it hasn't died.
It's not sitting on the shelf. And so you're still talking about it, and I wanted to say how important that is. That your book has a long life.
It really does. Especially nowadays, when there's print on demand, its potential is to never go out of print. So even if someone has a book that they wrote and published 5 years ago. They could still use help with marketing and launch a marketing campaign and resurrect that book.
That's it. Like, resurrect your book. I love that. Thank you, Ricki. How can people get into your world to either work with you as a developmental editor or a book coach or buy one of your 4 books that you've got out there.
The most recent ones and published ones are on Amazon. So if you look me up on Amazon, you'll definitely be able to get them that way.
Unfortunately, the self published book is no longer in print anymore. But I'm at RickiHeller.com. That's my website. I'm most active on Instagram and Facebook. So it's just @RickiHeller on Instagram and Ricki Heller page on Facebook.
And I would love to hear from you there. Send me a DM or email me. There's a link on my Instagram page to look at my website, see all of my offerings, or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you.
Awesome. I'm gonna put the links in the show notes so that it can be easy for people to connect with you.
Thank you so much for all of this very transparent and realistic information because I feel that writing a book can be romanticized and that the whole industry has been a little fuzzy.
And so that's why I really wanted to do this podcast to kind of clarify and simplify and just make this stuff really tenable for people.
Good. Yeah. Because it's so doable.
Yes, it's not rocket science. Yes. Thanks, Ricki.
Listener, thank you so much for being here today. I'll be back next time talking more about marketing, content, messaging to get your book out into the world and into the hands of your readers. Thanks for being here.