Best-selling author and award-winning publisher, Valerie J. Lewis Coleman serves experts and professional speakers to magnify and monetize their message by publishing quality books. With over fifteen years of experience in the book business, she helps aspiring authors navigate the mysterious labyrinth of self publishing to leverage their expertise and make money.
AU—Valerie, you didn’t start out in writing and publishing. Can you tell us something about your first career?
VJLC—Prior to launching Pen of the Writer, I worked as a senior industrial engineer for Delphi Automotive Systems (formerly General Motors) in Dayton. Over the course of my twenty-six-year career, I saved the company millions of dollars by improving systems, eliminating wastes and reducing costs.
AU—And now you’re an author, motivational speaker and publishing expert who helps writers get from idea to book in hand. Let’s talk first about your books.
VJLC—Yes. When the plant closed in 2007, I transitioned my problem-solving skills to the book business to help aspiring authors save thousands of dollars, mountains of frustration and hours of research by showing them how to make publishing quick, easy and affordable.
My first book, Blended Families An Anthology, released in 2006. Published to provide biblical principles and practical tools for struggling stepfamilies, this book has transformed marriages in several countries, been #1 on Amazon.com and topped several other best-sellers’ lists.
In 2007, I taught the basics of how to write, publish and market bestsellers to inmates and high school students. When the programs ended, both groups asked, “What’s next?” Their inquiry led to the release of my second compilation, Tainted Mirror An Anthology. It’s filled with powerful stories of overcoming restrainers like addiction, abuse and attitude that keep us from reaching our potential.
The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box-relationship advice that your father didn’t tell you and your mother didn’t know is my first novel. The Goody Box Book released in 2010 topping several bestsellers list. I travel the country empowering women who struggle to experience a fulfilling relationship by revealing the secrets needed to attract and keep lasting love.
I extracted the relationship advice captured in the novel to create a companion workbook: I Love Myself Journal. Women can assess themselves to discover why they attract men they’d rather repel and how to experience genuine self-love.
Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals are step-by-step guides I published to transition writers to authors. Passionate Writing provides insight into avoiding the eleven common writing mistakes, overcoming writer’s block and creating believable characters your readers love…or hate. Purposeful Publishing outlines the elements of effective cover design, how to hire professional editors and cost-saving strategies that have saved my clients and me thousands of dollars.
The Wait of Success: How to Become an Overnight Success in 7300 Days is a compilation of business owners, doctors and educators sharing their journey to success. It debuted in 2017 as a Dayton Book Expo bestseller.
Oh, The Things I Can Be When I See Me is my first children’s book. Based on conversations with my granddaughters, this picture book provides examples of historical pioneers and modern-day trailblazers who have done what they hope to do and look like them. Things I Can Be launched October 2019 and the eBook became a Kindle Top 50 Bestseller a few days later.
AU—Your experience in publishing led to you helping aspiring authors write, publish and market bestsellers. What secret about publishing can you share to help readers understand how you are able to help them?
VJLC—Most authors are right-brain dominate, which is where creativity, emotions and feelings reside. Great for writing; however, the business of writing is a left-brain function consisting of fact-finding, competitive analyses and strategic planning. As a result, many independent—or self-published—authors never recoup their financial investment. My research has identified the top three reasons:
- Overpaid for services. I know an author who spent $15000 for 100 copies of their book. That’s $150 per book…at cost! It’s impossible to be profitable when you spend that kind of money to publish. In an effort to recover some of the loss, authors tend to inflate the retail price. This pricing strategy reduces book sells because consumers can choose from millions of competitively priced options (Amazon alone has over 12 million titles). Why would someone pay $20 for your book, when a similar title is available for $12…with free shipping?
- Poor quality. As I speak at conferences, I often hear aspiring authors complain about the cost of publishing (editing and printing are the most expensive expenses). To cut corners, they edit themselves or have a friend do it. Awful. It’s difficult to edit your own work because your brain and eyes play tricks on you. And if your friend isn’t proficient in industry standards, editorial parameters or reader expectations, you will lose more in sales than you save in editing. Authors who are not skilled in graphic design try to save money by doing their own covers. Another mistake that can plummet sales and forever tarnish your image in the industry.
- Didn’t have a marketing plan. I like to compare a book launch party to a funeral. Family and friends rally around you with support: financial and/or emotional. However, after the service and repass, the support wains. People get back to their lives and you hear crickets. If you don’t have a marketing plan that starts at least three months before the book releases and continues until you’re ready to retire, your sales will be dismal. The average self-published author only sells 75 copies for the life of the book. That’s not enough to cover production costs, let alone, make a profit.
I serve authors to achieve the same success my clients and I experienced: national—and sometimes, international—exposure, media attention and of course, increased book sells. At the time of this posting, I published 134 authors; more than half are best-sellers, and mentored thousands in various aspects of the book business. My services cover a spectrum to meet clients’ needs:
- Do-it-yourself options include the Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals and Because Your Words Matter Virtual Mastermind, which launches next year. Clients who want to publish multiple titles for themselves or others, opt for this approach as well as,
- Show-me-how-to-do-it. These services includes private mentoring, group mentoring and training at live events.
- Just-do-it-for-me is book publishing. Since many of my clients are professional speakers and experts, they do not have the time—or desire—to master the intricacies of book publishing. They hire me to do the work for them.
AU—One of the things I love about your message is how direct you are talking about publishing as a business. For example, you advertise your workshops using the words “magnify and monetize your message.” I have found that most artists, and especially authors, are a little uncomfortable talking so frankly about the money side of creativity. Is that your experience?
VJLC—Absolutely. It goes back to right-brain dominance. Artists and authors tend to focus on creating versus business management. Adding to the fear of asking for money is another right-brain personality trait: introversion. Another factor is that women are less likely to brag on themselves than men. I’m not sure what’s the root cause of this disparity, but I bet it has something to do with gender biases in child rearing.
AU—But your business isn’t just about money, it’s also about message. Your new bestselling children’s book, Oh, The Things I Can Be When I See Me, has a very positive message. Talk to me about the book.
VJLC—Experts say that a child’s personality, esteem and confidence are formed by the age of seven years. To me, every conversation with a child is an opportunity to teach. Whether basic life skills, kindness or career aspirations, we have to encourage our babies to be the best they can be. With bullying, hate and other negative influences, I want to spread the message of dreaming big, staying focused and following your heart. I also use the book as a tool to teach my granddaughters entrepreneurism and money management. I plan to offer a scholarship to deserving girls who may not have funding for college.
AU—You have been a great supporter of Artists United’s efforts to connect Dayton creatives, thank you for that! What do you think needs to happen for more writers to see themselves as part of Artists United?
VJLC—Before anyone will invest their time, money or efforts, they have to know, like and trust you. Since you are an amazing advocate for artists, Curtis, they need to know the benefits of connecting with you. You will have to be consistent, frequent and deliberate with social media posts, emails and in-person meetings. My most-effective strategy is phone calls. It helps introverts come out of their shell without having to leave the comforts of home. By the way, I’m an introvert who struggles with face-to-face interactions; however, I have adapted to ambivert strategies to get the job done.
AU—You hosted a writer’s retreat in November. What’s next?
VJLC—Yes! Free Your Mind and the Words Will Follow Writers Retreat was amazing. I reserved a private lodge in the mountains of Kentucky. I helped attendees relax, rejuvenate and release their creativity with techniques that stimulated mind, body and soul. They left energized, empowered and expecting greater.
The year of perfect 20/20 vision marks my eleventh year hosting citywide book events in Dayton. The Pen of the Writer (POWER) Book Fest, held in conjunction with The Indulge Event (another decade-long citywide event), is the Saturday before Mother’s Day. The event includes workshops for aspiring authors, activities for children in the POWER Kids area and scores of authors signing books.
To effectively serve more people, I have to replicate my efforts. Because Your Words Matter Virtual Mastermind will consist of online courses, interviews with subject matter experts, checklists, resources and group mentoring with me.
I am working on several book projects for clients. My goal is to publish ten new Queen V Publishing titles next year.
AU—Is there anything else you’d like to share?
VJLC—The book business can be difficult to maneuver; however, with hard work, consistency and expert guidance, you can experience great success. Although technological advances have simplified publishing, I encourage you to proceed with caution. Predatory service providers overpromise and under deliver causing many hopeful writers to give up on their dreams. If you’re ready to make quantum leaps toward the success of your book, schedule a complimentary discovery session with me at https://penofthewriter.as.me. I look forward to serving you to meet and exceed your publishing objectives.
AU—Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.