Episode 33: How One Author/Publisher Self-Funded Her Book, And What She Learned From Other Successful Entrepreneurs to do It!

January 20, 2020

In this episode, Sheila Kennedy, publisher/author at The Zebra Ink, shares exactly how she created a group of book evangelists who love what she does and will support her every time she writes a book, how she funded her first book, and what she does on a daily basis to keep her business growing!

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Resources mentioned

The Daily Magnet


3 Key Points

Create a book club and your members will help you promote all your books!

When something works, keep doing it.

Model successful people


Ellen: Hi and welcome to Episode 33. Today, my guest is Sheila Kennedy. Believing everyone has a story to tell, Sheila Kennedy supports others as they write their wisdom, speak their stories, and impact the world.

A two-times solo author, a coauthor of anthologies and memoirs, a vanity publisher with her own label, The Zebra Ink, and marketing mentor, Sheila, opens the doors of opportunities for authors and speakers to be seen, heard, and hired. So, welcome to the call Sheila.

[0:30] Sheila: Well, thank you

Ellen. It’s such a pleasure to be here.

Ellen: Well, it’s nice to have you because we have a mutual friend Joey Garrity.

Sheila: Yes.

Ellen:  Joey actually interviewed me for the very first podcast.

Sheila: That’s awesome.

Ellen: Yeah.

[0:47] Sheila: And she’s always connecting great people with other great people.

Ellen: Yes.

Sheila: So, I’m thrilled to be here today.

Ellen: Yeah, that’s her thing.

Sheila: Yes.

Ellen: Yeah. So, do you want to tell people a little bit about your story?

[0:59] Sheila: Well, let’s see. The easiest way to do that is I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time. That’s evolved in a lot of different ways. I started out as a homestager and redesigner.

[1:12] Ellen: So did I!

Sheila: Really?

Ellen: Yeah!

[1:18] Sheila: That’s wild. So, I started that business, oh I don’t know, in 2007, I think. And that began a wild and crazy journey of basically learning how to market myself with very little budget. And that business led to… I’ve got really involved in social media, and marketing, and networking and all of those good things, and used lots of ways that I could promote myself without having to spend money on advertising. And so that has been a common theme throughout my career as an entrepreneur, even though I did homestaging for a while.

Then I was working with kids, I was a speaker, and I was speaking around the country for tweens if you will, and teenagers. And then, I became a coach. I was the confidence coach for a long time. And as I started that business, I became an author a couple of times over. And that morphed into actually creating my own publishing label because my goal was to help authors, and especially self-published authors, have a level playing field with those that had the advantages of being with a traditional publishing company. And so, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last almost four years.

[2:37] Ellen: So, how do you level the playing field?

[2:41] Sheila: Well, there’s a couple of ways that I, like to be able to do that. I think that helping people feel comfortable enough to connect with other people, right? Publishing a book is probably one of the most vulnerable things you’ll do. And I think that’s worse than getting naked in front of someone. You’re putting your heart and soul into writing for the entire world to judge. And not only this world, but history behind you. And so, or in front of you, I guess I should say.

So sometimes, it’s about creating events. It’s helping people or authors create their press kits, teaching them how to embrace traditional media, how to network, how to make sure that they have a book brigade. Something like that is huge, and that’s an external sales force that you don’t necessarily have to pay, but you create a relationship with that person or that organization, and they help you-all of those things. So, those are all ways that I get to help authors figure out and strategize how they can get the word out and make a bigger impact.

[3:53] Ellen: Well, is that the same thing as you were saying, having a book club? (Which we talked about before this interview.)

Sheila:  Well it can be. So, one of the things that I like to have authors do is, after they’ve published their book, is to utilize a platform of their choice, whether that’s in person or online, but to create a book club, if you will. And that is sometimes, it’s going to look differently. That’s not necessarily coaching. Maybe that’s just pulling apart chapters. If you wrote a fiction book instead of a nonfiction book.

Maybe your book is not necessarily a teaching moment, but most of them are. And you get to just dive in a little bit deeper with your audience. And when people get to have access to an author, it really changes the game, and it makes the reading come to life in a way that the reader never expected. And so, they’ve been very popular. So, that’s definitely one of the ways that I encourage people to promote their book.

[4:57] Ellen: Yeah, I wanted to ask you, so is there anything else I should ask you about that particular thing?

Sheila: No. That’s basically what…it’s just how people can build a profit margin afterward. I can tell you my Mary-Kay story.

[5:20] Ellen: Okay. What’s that?

Sheila: So after I published my first book, it had five points of power to it. And I started a book club for multilevel marketers. And so I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll have twenty people sign up or maybe that would be great.” And so, you brought the book, and then you had a five-week book club that came after it. Well, I ended up creating a template with this one group. and they were Mary Kay consultants, and I ended up having over a hundred at a time. And so, and I did it several times and then I did it with other multi-level marketing companies.

[6:03] Ellen: And so you charge for this?

Sheila: I did, I did charge.

Ellen: What did you charge?

[6:09] Sheila: It was minimal. It was $25 to join for the five weeks, the five calls, and they had to buy the book. So the book was $10 or $12 at the time. So, I wrote a book about confidence, and I would take the lessons from the book and I would apply it to their individual industries.

[6:27] Ellen: Got it.

[6:28] Sheila: And so that way, it was very applicable to their lives, and it really made sense and would help them build their business, which is what I really was hoping for. So, what also happened as a result of this book club is that I created my very first book brigade. I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was publishing my next book, the people that had been through the book clubs before had this desire to help me promote, and they helped support it. They came to the book launch. They did wonderful things for me because they already experienced what I was all about, and they really wanted more. And so, that was fantastic.

And so doing additional teaching as in a book club is a fantastic way to create great… I’ll call them ambassadors, that will help you get the word out and making that impact, and having that influence is why we write our books. Right?

[7:36] Ellen: Right. So, how did you get to the Mary-Kay people? Were you a Mary- Kay person?

Sheila: I did not believe it or not. I actually went to… I was invited to one of their makeover sessions, and when I introduced myself, it was a networking thing, and when I introduced myself, I just did my typical thing. And afterward, the directors said, “I really would like you to come and speak and teach.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s fantastic.” So, that was the first group that I did with a group of probably about twenty directors. And so, I was with them, and then they in turn had all of their downlines once the book came out, had all of their downlines join in. So, that’s how that grew to be over a hundred people.

Ellen: Nice.

Sheila: Yeah, It was great.

[8:29] Ellen: So, you’ve talked about being the confidence coach. Does that help you with the authors that you work with?

Sheila:  It does. And I had mentioned earlier that one of the most vulnerable things you’ll ever do is write a book. And so, as an author is going through the writing process and the launch process and afterward, there are several dips in confidence levels, and that’s normal and healthy and it actually is a good indication that you’re on the right path. And so, all of my training, all of the tools, all of the skills that I had spent a lifetime curating, I get to use with my authors and the authors that come and seek my help for whatever it is that they need. That actually is become my secret weapon, if you will.

[9:22] Ellen: Well, you’re known for being the “zebra lady” of The Zebra Ink and what’s the deal with the zebra? I’d love to know that.

Sheila: Well thank you. Yes, you know, I don’t love zebras because…

Ellen: (Laughing)

Sheila: Well, I know that sounds really funny, but I’m like, it’s not like I went on Safari. It’s not like I’m this… I just love the print. It’s actually very meaningful. About ten years ago, I was having a really hard time. And I was in a kind of, in the proverbial, between a rock and a hard place, and I was kind of backed up into the corner, and the rock was coming towards me. And I had mentioned to a friend of mine that I had no choices. And he said, “Sheila, you always have a choice. There’s always a choice to make.” And I was like, I don’t think so, not this time. But sure enough, I thought about the situation; I thought about what I could do, how I could choose differently and I did. And I ended up kind of defeating Goliath if you will.

And so, the giant went down, and I got out from under the rock, and everything was much better. And it was the most empowering day of my life. And I dedicated my life that day to saying, “I’m going to help people realize that they may not always get to choose themselves out of the situation, but they do get to choose their reaction.”

Well, a few months later, I was reading a poem by Shel Silverstein. And it was called the thing about zebras. And he had asked the zebra, “Are you black with white stripes or white with black stripes?” And the zebra answered with questions like, “Well, are you neat with sloppy ways or slapping with neat ways? Are you good with bad habits, are bad with good habits?” And the questions went on and on and on. And it was humorous, but it was very meaningful. So, what I’ve done is use the zebra print as a visual reminder to me that I get the power to choose. And so, that’s how my publishing label ended up being The Zebra Ink. The zebra has been a common theme for about ten years in every evolution of my business. And so what’s wonderful is, it’s fun and funky branding, but it’s actually very meaningful.

Ellen: That is awesome.

Sheila: Thank you.

[11:40] Ellen: So, many of the people listening today are offering books to help them build their businesses. I know that you wrote a book called Choices to Change, and you did an experiment to raise money to publish that book. And I would like to know exactly what did you do?

Sheila: (Laughing)

Ellen: And I know people always want to know that: how they can fund their book projects.

[12:02] Sheila: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So funny thing is, is that I was writing a book about confident entrepreneurship, and I had mentioned to my brother that I was going to write this book, and I was basing it on the very first book I wrote, and I was just going to write it. And I didn’t really think anything of it; it was going to be pretty easy. And he said, “Well, you can’t write that book.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Cause you don’t make enough money? I go, “Oh, really? I go, “What does that have to do with it?” He goes, “People aren’t going to believe that you’re a successful entrepreneur if you’re not making enough money and they haven’t heard of you.” and all these other things.

I was like, “Okay.” So instead of saying, “All right, I’m just not going to write the book.” I thought of ways that I could actually get the book written and prove the point.  So, I decided to interview entrepreneurs and ask them what their practices were for confident entrepreneurship. And so, I had some fantastic entrepreneurs join me in that endeavor, and I learned so much. It was like a conference in a 90-minute call. And I took all of the data and all of the interviews, and I compiled kind of a list of things. As I finish writing the book, I needed to raise money to publish it.

[13:21] And so, instead of fundraising or crowdsourcing or taking out a loan or anything else, I was like, “Okay, I just interviewed these twelve entrepreneurs and they shared all of their best practices with me. I am going to put all of these practices into play for the next sixty days. And at the end of the sixty days, if what they’ve said is true and it works, then I will have raised the money. Then I will crowdsource or take out a loan or whatever, there’s probably eight to ten practices.

I ended up tripling my income. I was getting speaking engagements that I had been wanting for a long time and attracting my ideal clients.

Ellen: Wow.

Sheila: And so, I didn’t actually put that into the book because the book had already been written. It’s kind of like that afterthought, but I actually got to prove that confident entrepreneurs and their practices were the real deal; there was something to this. So, that was thrilling. So yes, to this day I continue to keep track every day.

[14:38]I call it “The Daily Magnet”, but, I do my daily magnet and continue these practices and when I don’t, when I stop using it or I take a week or two off or whatever because you are having to do activities every day. There’s always a dip in my income. It’s amazing to me how much this really impacts my bottom line in the way I connect with people, in my financials, and the way I conduct business. So, I’m a big fan.

[15:15] Ellen: Wow. And so those are all in the book, Choices to Change?

Sheila: Well they are all in the book. They’re not all separated into “The Daily Magnet.” And I do have a link; I mean, I give that away to people because it didn’t get into the book as The Daily Magnet. So if you would like a copy of  The Daily Magnet, you can certainly visit TheZebraInk.com/thedailymagnet-bba.

Ellen: That’s awesome.

Sheila: Thank you.

[15:46] Ellen: Okay. So, why don’t you tell them a little bit more about The Daily Magnet? Can you tell them just a little bit more what they’re going to get?

Sheila: Sure. So there are practices that some very, very successful entrepreneurs had practiced. One of the things on The Daily Magnet, in The Daily Magnet is “info sponging”, and that came from Jeff Hoffman. He is the co-founder…most people will know him from priceline.com. So, one of Jeff’s practices that he shared in the book was that he, every day he reads newspapers or magazines or scans social media or websites for about twenty minutes.

And he has post-it notes that he has next to him. And he just writes down things that are interesting to him, not necessarily in his industry, just interesting ideas, and he keeps track of them. And he puts these post-it notes on a board; and about every two or three weeks, his company, or his leadership team, come together and they look at all the post-it notes and they see if there are any connections that they can make. That’s actually how priceline.com was formed.

So priceline.com was formed because he saw a sign or an ad or something like that for meat that was expiring or food that was expiring. And he’s like, “Well, what has a greater expiration date than a flight and travel?” So, they took what they were using for expiring produce and meat and applied it to the travel industry. And that’s how priceline.com was created.

Ellen: “Oh, I love stories like that.”

Sheila: Yeah. So things like info sponging are part of The Daily Magnet things…

[17:37] Sarah Newton is a super nanny. Well, she’s not really super nanny anymore. She was for a while. She had her own television show in the U.K. She’s a team coach. She’s an amazing woman. But one of her suggestions, or one of her practices, was that she doesn’t go to bed at night unless she’s done three revenue-generating activities that day.

Ellen: Ah.

Sheila: And so just three. So, that’s sending out a contract that’s following up on something that is, getting paid, seeking out a new client, whatever that case may be, she does three-revenue generating activities a day. And so, that’s in there; so that you can keep track of that.

[18:21] Ellen: Is that like for the whole year or like 30 days?

Sheila: You do it every day.

Ellen: Oh, you do it every day. Okay.

[18:28] Sheila: You do it every day. And so you’re going to keep track of how much money you have. It’s a gratitude practice as well. So, you have three things that you’re going to be grateful for. You’re going to list three things and they can’t be anything that you’ve already said because we need to attract an abundance. And we do that by being gracious and being grateful. So, that’s about setting intentions.

[18:51] Burt Martinez was one of the entrepreneurs in the book, and he got a job as a consultant with a sales team and a newspaper,  and they had different teams set up. And he was given the worst-producing team and was told to turn that around. And so, all he did is have them, three times a day, say out loud an affirmation. And that was really all they did. They change daily, but they just got in the practice of affirming who they are, what they were capable of, what they were going to do.

And in nine months, that worst-producing team became this the top producing team and has continued to stay that way long after he left. And the management team at the newspaper told him they were so excited about what he did with that team that they adopted that practice as a company.

[19:52] Ellen: Wow. That’s great. That’s just great. I’ll tell you something, a lot of people charge a lot of money for these kinds of things, so to get this for free is unbelievable. I’m going to get a copy, so everybody else should go and get a copy as well. And that was www.TheZebraInk.com/thedailymagnet-bba as in books, business abundance.

Sheila: Yes!

[20:21] Ellen: Sheila, this has been really awesome. It’s so nice to meet you. I’m so happy that you came on the call, and I want to thank you.

Sheila: Well thank you, Ellen. It’s been such a pleasure. I love spending time with you, and I really appreciate the opportunity.

Ellen: Well that’s it for today, everybody. To get the transcript, go to www.booksbusinessabundance.com/podcast

To continue the conversation, go to facebook.com/groups/booksbusinessabundance. And that’s where you can ask questions. if you have questions about this particular show, any questions you have for Sheila, delve deeper into the topics, share comments and takeaways. And I’ve also started doing some book giveaways in there. So if you’d like to get in on the next one, be sure to go, and join the group. So again, that’s www.facebook.com/groups/booksbusinessabundance. Till next time, Bye-bye.



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About the Author

Ellen Violette

Ellen is an 3X award-winning book, including being named one of the Top 20 Book Coaches of 2022 by Coach Foundation. She's also a multiple #1 bestselling author, a 3-time eLit award winner, podcast host, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. She has been helping entrepreneurs increase their credibility and expert status, become #1 bestselling authors, and make a bigger impact in the world since 2004. Her mission is to make the world a better place one author and one book at a time!



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