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Publishing like a Pro with Becky Cummings

Author Becky Cummings

Speaking her Truth

Becky Cummings is an author, teacher and mom of three. She loves kids and speaking her truth.

Becky is blessed to combine these passions by writing children’s books that spread messages of love, hope, faith, health, and happiness. When she isn’t writing you might find her salsa dancing, eating a veggie burrito at her favorite Mexican joint, or traveling to new places!

Her smart advice:

Set a time to write each week as if it a doctor appointment – just do it!

Becky Cummings

What’s the best part of being an author?

Hearing or reading stories of how my books are helping empower kids.

Becky Cummings

Listen to our chat, and I’d like to know, did you hear one of Becky’s MAIN points in there… that the results you get with published are directly tied to the effort you put in? This is such an important piece of the puzzle!

~Laurie

Contact Info

Facebook & Instagram: authorbcummings

Need help marketing your book this year? >>> How to Market Your Picture Book in a Pandemic <<<

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Joining me for the first time?  Start at the beginning HERE

View episode transcript

Hello everyone. And welcome back to the Writers Way. I’m here with Becky. Welcome!

Thank you, Laurie. I’m happy to be here.

I’m so happy to have you back again. So people can’t see, but I’m very jealous of your sunlight streaming through the window on your lovely setee. That’s lovely. I’ve enjoyed watching your you know, your move and your beautiful house coming together, and then you have another house.

That’s so good. Yeah. It’s, it’s been a lot of changes in the past couple of years, but they’ve been good ones. Yeah. Okay. Well, for people who didn’t hear you last time you were on, how about you share sort of who you are and your background and how you that started or so, um, I, I became an author just a couple of years ago.

So it is a newer career for me before that I was a school teacher, um, to start, I taught fourth and fifth grade, and then I, um, started my own tutoring company when my son was born and I thought, I’d go back to the classroom. But actually the tutoring company took off and I started working with all kids ages K through.

Um, like six and then that took off and my, my little kids grew up and I stayed with them and I had them all through high school. So I did that for many years. Um, but we wanted a change in lifestyle. We wanted to move to a warmer climate and just have a different, you know, a life where we could be outside all year round.

Sorry. I know. I guess technically I can be outside all year round. It just isn’t as enjoyable for me. Right. I’ll tell you, Florida summers are super hot. So there’s a, there’s a give and take, you know, true. Like almost too hot. Do you have to go inside in the summer to like submerge yourself? Otherwise, you don’t want to be outside.

Yeah. Okay. Well that makes me feel a little bit better. Okay. Sorry to interrupt you. Um, yeah, so I love teaching. I always wanted to write books, um, and I had dabbled a little bit in it, in the classroom and, um, and that was the time where self publishing was not as popular. And I. Wrote to a few big houses, you got rejection letters.

And then I had a baby and I can’t do any of that right now. Um, and life just kind of took off and I put it on the back burner, but when things started changing and we realized I wanted to, we wanted to move. I was like, you know, this is a really good time to get back into it. I had a lot of stuff going on in my life that was.

Giving me signs that I needed to start again. I needed to write and just do it. So I did, I started writing and, um, decided to go the self-publishing route and, um, eventually picking up momentum to the point where I was like, okay, I’m going to do this full-time now. I think I can let go of those other things I could let go of the tutoring company and a few other things.

And that’s when I, you know, fully dedicated myself to becoming a children’s author. And so the book like the books that you did finally published the magical choices series, is that what you were pitching to the publishers before, or is that new ish? That was new. It was a spinoff of my first idea. So the first book I wrote was for ages eight to 12, and it was like a non-fiction book, how to live this happy lifestyle.

And, um, that was the book that I was pitching to the publishers. And I’ve added a lot since then, because it was like a decade ago. The, my, the magic of me series is a spin spin-up those, um, I would take a chapter and kind of blow it up and make a picture book out of it. Cool. And how many books do you have now?

I have, I have four out one coming out in November, so that will be five total. And I’m planning for a total of five more so exciting. A series of 10. Wow. Oh, exciting. That’s cool. So, um, what was, what would you say was the most surprising thing that you have learned that you didn’t know before about self publishing?

I think that, um, the marketing piece is so huge. I mean, you have, you can have an amazing, well-written beautiful illustrations, but if you don’t know how to market it, you’re taking a fish and you’re putting it in the ocean and letting it swim. And it’s like, Hey, you’re on your own buddy. All these other fish.

So you find sometimes that there’s these books you’ll see, they’re not well-written, they’re not well illustrated. They’re doing fabulous. So the difference really is it’s marketing. It’s getting your book out there and making it well known and making a name for yourself so that your books actually stand out and can get into the hands of children.

And something I’ve really admired about you over the past couple of years is you’re very persistent. You really dedicated yourself to learning and applying and you haven’t given up. And that may be the difference between a great book that doesn’t do that well. And not that like your books are fantastic, but if people don’t have that tenacity to just persist and learn and keep trying and put themselves out there, then.

That’s very, very true. You can almost beat somebody right away and tell whether their book’s going to do well. Just based on their personality. Doesn’t matter what their book is or anything eat them. And you look it’s those characteristics laureates it’s it’s they had to, they have the drive to learn. Do they have the drive to succeed?

And yes, we are going to make mistakes and. Fail sometimes, but do you keep going, do you persistence you, you know, learn more and ask more questions and find more mentors and watch more videos and enroll in courses and do all these things. The people that have that motivation, that internal intrinsic motivation.

They are the ones that tend to do well in this, this arena of self-publishing. Yeah. Yes. I agree that risk taking behavior because sometimes you do have to put yourself out there and doesn’t always feel good. We’re putting money with it. Yeah. Yeah. So true. And your books do really well though, right? Yeah.

Yes. I’m very blessed there. They’re doing well. I mean, some are better than others. But it’s, uh, it’s, you know, it’s my marketing techniques and what I feel like, for example, my, the magic of meat. Series does very well. It’s my best-selling series. And it’s easier now to promote those because I have an audience for those.

And, you know, people, if they buy one, they usually want to buy more than one that I wrote a book about adoption, and that’s like a completely different topic. It’s like a very smaller niche market. And, you know, I realized when I wrote that it’s not going to be like, This huge bestseller, the way the others could, because most people that buy it are either adopting or thinking of adopting and that’s not, you know, the whole world.

So it’s still a good size market though. Isn’t it? Um, yeah, I guess I’m just comparing it to like, I’m like very open to anybody. But I think it depends on, you know, your topic having realistic expectations too. Right. That’s a good point for people to, to really listen to and understand. Yes. Um, what was I gonna ask you?

Oh, the marketing. Cause you said your marketing strategies are working for that series. So what, what is your main marketing strategy? Well, my, my favorite is just doing Amazon ads and I feel like they’re kind of a beast, you know, daily, but people are online and on Amazon, they’re in the mindset to buy things.

And if you’re looking at books, they’re in the mindset to buy books. So what better time to present your books to them? So that’s where I spend a lot of my marketing budget is. And I’m always trying to learn how to get them to be better. Um, I’ll think I’ll have it down. I’ll be doing well. And then boom.

One of my best ads just stops and I’m like, well, right. The algorithm. And change, like any factors they can change your price. That affects things. So, I mean, it’s really like, always like, Oh, you know, a work in progress. And have you found over the past, like since March, since the pandemic started, have you found, um, it’s harder?

My books actually took off and started selling more, which was great. I mean, they were selling to the point where I was running out and I couldn’t keep printing them fast enough cause my printers were behind since COVID and all this craziness. Um, so that was a blessing. But then, you know, I would say in the past month, Amazon, um, Raised my prices and that kind of changed things a little bit as well.

So, you know, I, I just, it’s a roller coaster and I kind of just go with it instead of freaking out. Like I use hopefully the lower them again, and yeah. You know, it’s, it’s just part of it’s part of the game. I think just being able to sit up, sit down, strap yourself in and know there are going to be highs and lows with this.

That’s a good way to put it because it really does feel like a game sometimes like a gamble at a game. And the roller coaster is a good way to put it for sure. Gosh. Um, I’ve noticed your husband in Facebook groups. So do you guys, does he help you out? Like, did he jump on board with this. He did. Yeah, he’s amazing.

He’s the reason why I’m able to do what I do. Um, he was able to retire from his career in Connecticut. And when he came down here, take a break and just kind of see what needs, what do you want it to do? And I sort of

hired him. So now he does all my shipping and receiving and he orders my books and, um, it’s. And he does a lot of my, like mailing to influencers and things like that. He’s, he’s very busy with that piece. It’s a lot of work, you know, equal for him. Cause I don’t like spreadsheets as much as sitting there and writing and creating.

Oh, that’s wonderful that he’s taking that on. It definitely helps lucky. I was saying to my husband, cause, um, similarly he’s been able to mostly retire from his job. Like what can you do for me? I don’t like the money. Can I just be the creator please? Yeah, but he does all or most of the kids’ stuff, he gets them up and.

Makes their lunches. Thank goodness. When I am in charge in the mornings, it’s not good. I like just leave it as a partnership and make it work together. It definitely helps. And you still get along. You still like each other? We do good. Each other, like 24 seven at first, the first year is like really we’re home together all the time everyday while you’re still here.

Like unschooling our children. So they’re home with us 24, seven too. So it’s just a madhouse of chaos and fun. Oh, that is cool. I’ve heard of unschooling. That’s sort of letting the kids like take the lead, but they’re still learning. Right. So am I right in that? Life schooling them. So letting things come up very naturally and letting things be interest based.

And yes, yes. It’s interesting this year and how everything there’s been such fallout, but what it has allowed for, I feel like if you’re open to it is really choosing the path that’s right for you and your kids. And I’ve seen that a lot from people and like, okay. Online learning is not the path for us. I mean, for some people it is, but, um, But I feel like that’s really neat and it isn’t just the one way anymore or the majority, right?

Like go to school nine to three. And I feel like that’s kind of a positive thing. I dunno. Do you feel like that? I agree. I feel like, you know, for a long time we felt trapped in this box of this is the way it has to be done. And this is. People up and woken them up to there. So many more options and our kids are going to learn regardless of what it looks like, because that is our innate desire to learn and grow and try things.

I mean, that’s our human instinct, so I know that in different ways. So are you the, sort of the primary. Unschooler. Are you in charge of that all day? Well, you know, we both do it. It’s because it’s very natural now. And again, this is sort of very new for us too, but, um, we’ve had a lot of fun. Like last week we built a huge play, like a swing set in our backyard.

And so. And like three or four hours every day, like reading the instructions, screwing things in learning about, you know, building and designing and they had a great time. And then yesterday they just played on it all day long. And that was, they did, they got to really reap the benefit of their hard work and their labor.

And then that’s a great life lesson. My goodness. Right there. Will any of your books be around that sort of topic of letting kids learn more naturally? You know, I think, yes. Um, in my mind, I’ve been brainstorming for an older kids series. It’s something that I really have always wanted to do, but I just felt like I had to get this younger kid series out first.

But I believe that down the road, I will have a lot more about kind of a futuristic way of raising children futuristic like that in a series in a, in a fiction series. Right. Right. So it’s still fiction, but

it could be like this. Go ask your parents. Um, do you have any wise words for authors who maybe. You know, are working hard to get their books out, but it’s not quite working. Yeah, sure. Um, you know, I think that there’s like a million steps when you’re a new author and there’s so much to learn. So I feel like if you feel overwhelmed, which I’m sure a lot of new authors do.

I would say, take one area and just start with that and feel like, no, it’s okay to just slow down, to really speed up area and they learn it well and become, you know, very proficient in it, whether it’s Amazon ads or how to work Instagram or using Pinterest or, you know, thinking about how to set up a website, whatever it is.

Um, and if it’s something that is out of their scope and they just feel they can’t do it, I mean, that’s really a wise to then hire somebody else either to guide them along and be a mentor or just to do it for them. If they don’t feel like it’s a skill they will really need in the future. But I would say.

Pick something work at it and take small steps to get good at it. Before you move on to something else versus scattering, your energy, a thousand directions and winding up doing nothing. Well, that is such great advice. There’s a lot in there that you just said, but it’s such great advice. Like I have certainly been a victim of my own choices.

Um, yeah. Pick one thing and stick with it for, for a while. And. So that you’re not feeling like why isn’t anything working well, cause you’re trying everything and that’s not going to work. that is great advice. And don’t try to do it all yourself. If it’s not your zone of genius. If it’s not your forte, like website design, hire somebody.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, because think of all the time and energy you will spend and time is precious. Don’t waste it on. You don’t really need to, you know, it’s an investment. I know it’s risky. Sometimes when you hear some of the prices, it costs to find somebody to design a website or a logo. But, um, the more professional you present yourself, the more that that’s going to come across to everyone, and it’s an investment within you.

So that’s why is to do that. I think that’s really smart. I have, um, I’m in a group for sort of website design or upkeep or whatnot. Um, and so something she says is if you’ve spent 10 minutes on this and you can’t get it moving. And so I’ve really tried to internalize that. And after I was tried, you know, something okay, I’m going to ask for help, reach out, do whatever I gotta do, but I’m not going to waste any more time on that.

And it really, really helps when you have that mindset and you allow yourself to move on and either ask for help or. Hire it out or just figure out a different way. So it’s not your time wasted. Yeah. Is that, is that a mistake that you feel like you made, that you tried to do it all yourself? Um, Yes. And no, I feel like I have a good balance of when I, things got overwhelmed, overwhelming for me, I would stop and be like, okay, I need to find somebody and to reach out.

So I’ve gotten pretty good at doing that. Um, I did have, my husband helped me with the website first, you know, and, and he designed it and he did a good job. Nice. But now we want to take it to a whole nother level and I can’t do that. And, you know, he was like, well, I can try to do it. And I’m like, yeah, this is going to be a time-waster or at that level now where let’s just hire somebody that knows what they’re doing.

It’s easy for. I like that. That’s exciting that you’re at that level, you’ve achieved so much success up to this point. What would you say your next goal is the next challenge, which for you to overcome? Um, well, I think it’s just kind of plotting out my next part of my series. Um, I’m going to be having a new illustrator come on board to join me.

And I’m excited for that. So that’ll be happening in, you know, the next in 2021. And, um, I think it’s just going to be kind of making sure that this series is tight and it fits together. And those books come out at a. good pace so that, um, I keep the momentum up. That’s kind of my challenge. I have some things in my mind for down the road, but that’s more my immediate goal for next year.

Um, I wrote my gobble gobble, Mister wobble book. And that was really a series too. So I’m working on getting my next one out for that next year as well. So I think it’s just kind of carrying on and end getting these series finished up and getting them out there and just, you know, before I move on to other things, right.

Focusing, that’s always so hard for me. Um, did you, uh, find your next illustrator already? Or are you in that process? I mean the process right now. Yeah. It’s a lot to consider because I, you know, I really want this to be a long-term relationship. So I have to search to find somebody that can stay with me for a while and can do, um, the great quality that Zuzana has already done.

So I will be searching for a little bit. So you’re planning to hire them, like on for all five books, hoping I was having a giggle at, sorry, it cut out. I said that’s the goal is to get them as long as you have to finish the five, but, you know, illustrator sometimes change or get different contracts. So, you know.

Yeah. Yeah. Do you want to talk about that? What happened with Susanna? Um, yeah, that’s fine. I mean, he’s fabulous. And when I met her, she was very new. Um, she only had, I think a couple of books out, but they weren’t really, um, Quite mainstream yet, you know, but I bought them all on Amazon cause I was like, Oh my gosh, her work is fabulous.

And so, you know, she just got really busy and prices changed and contract contract terms changed. And you know, that happens. I understand that. Um, I was hoping to be kind of grandfathered in at the rates that I had captain I, and I, you know, but that wasn’t in her desire. So. We kind of parted ways and she’s going to go on and do her things with new illustrate our new authors and books, and I’m going to carry on my way.

So yeah, that’s great to see how you’re handling that. And, um, And processing it because that’s probably going to happen to other authors as well. Um, so it’s really nice to see that, you know, you wish her well and, but, but you stuck to your guns as well, that that didn’t work for you. And so you’re going to part ways and just try to find somebody who will be able to carry on as best as possible.

Yeah. I’ve talked to a few other authors, you know, not just like with Susanna, but with other authors that had illustrators, same type of thing. And. Part of the self publishing world, you know, that because we’re hiring every person, individually, things are going to change and it’s not like we’re having these big contracts and locking people in and agencies and things like that.

So, yeah, I guess that’s hard to do. As much as it’s heartbreaking yet, I am very positive that I’m going to find somebody fabulous. That’s going to continue to make my series and it’s just going to be continue to be beautiful. So, yeah. And it has been so beautiful. I find it. It’s just, you know, it’s like double-edged sword, you found someone fantastic.

And she did a great job for you, but you kind of made her famous in our little sphere. And so now she’s um, so yeah, so I guess that, that is, uh, The risk you take when you are successful. Right. So everybody can make their own choices and choose how they want. Well that, so, yeah. Well, I respect the way that you’ve done it.

Um, publicly, anyway, there’s some teeth gnashing behind the scenes. Well, not in, at this point, like I said, I really do believe in everything is in divine order. So for me, like I’ve been through enough things in life where, when I feel like there’s, it’s time to end things that that’s probably for a reason.

And so I’m okay. Oh, that’s very wise. Thank you for sharing that. Okay. So what would you say on your last question here that I have for you is what is the very best part of this whole journey and being a self published author and all that, what’s the best for you? Uh, the, the best part is knowing that.

There are children hearing these words every single day, and that it’s going to become part of their, dialogue, their subconscious, it’s going to be just programmed into them to like, feel these things. I am beautiful. I am smart. I can choose this. I can choose that. I can dream big. I can eat healthy foods.

I can, you know, all these things that our children need to hear. I love when I read my reviews and just. Hear parents talking about the kids wanted to hear the book over and over, and they’re saying these words and the parents are tearing up and the parents are saying these words. And, um, that to me is so, so beautiful.

And it’s my vision. And as much as I would love to be able to connect with more children and author visits. This is just not the time in the world that we live in. Um, as of right now, I just love to get those reviews and that are just confirming that this is a beautiful thing. My message is getting out there to thousands and thousands of children.

And I hope that these books will become a classic staple in every child’s library and in every school and every classroom. I hope so, too. It certainly deserves to be right. It’s gorgeous. Lovely. Empowering. Love it. Thank you so much. I will share with everybody in the show notes where they can find you, um, author becomings.com in case anybody wants to have right there right now.

And thank you for spending the time with me today. Really appreciate it. Thank you for having me on the show again. I love it. Good. I’m glad. Next year. Same time. Same place. Bye Becky. Bye Laurie.

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Laurie Wright

Laurie Wright

Teacher turned author, turned children's mental health advocate. Laurie has given a TEDx talk, gives workshops for parents, teachers, and children, and has published five books in the Mindful Mantras series, all to help combat the crisis kids are currently facing. Teachers can't stop the urge to teach! A course for creatives who want to write for kids is coming soon!
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