Your publishing guardian angel!
Author and publishing expert April Cox joined me on the show today to talk about her publishing experiences and to share about how she loves to help new authors make their book dreams come true!
April’s favorite part of the publishing journey has actually been working with other authors, so much so that she’s created a workgroup to facilitate dozens of new authors publish their books.
Why does April write?
I had beautiful grand-babies that I was reading to regularly. It always brought so much joy to me, reading to them. And we used to make up stories together my little labradoodle on my lap.April Cox
When she first set out to self-publish Puppy Pickup Day five years ago, April had no idea what she was doing! There was so much to learn and it was hard to find good self-publishing advice… does this sound familiar?
She spent months of time and thousands of dollars to figure out all the different aspects of self-publishing, but was eventually able to get her book completed. Although it was one of the hardest, most complicated experiences of her life it was all worth it because she was able to create something so special for her grandchildren (and can now say she wrote an award-winning book!)
How she does it
I had been doing consulting for a long time. I had 35 year career in corporate America – IT geek. So I learned pretty fast. And when you’re a consultant, you tend to be someone who learns, who has to immerse yourself in new things and learn very quickly. I always tell my students by superpower is making difficult things really easy.April Cox
I hope you enjoy this episode and reach out to April for your free session if you need it! Click >>> HERE <<< to schedule a time (select ‘free coaching for workgroup participants’).
Want to listen in on the first podcast show I did with April? Listen >>> HERE <<<
Joining me for the first time? Start at the beginning HERE
View episode transcript
[00:00:00] Laurie: Okay. Hello writers. Welcome back to the Writers Way podcast. I’m here with April Cox.
[00:00:06] Thank you so much for joining me today. April.
[00:00:09] April: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:10] Laurie: You’re welcome. It’s always fun to talk to you. I always learn a lot. April is the author of two books in the Little Labradoodle series. And she’s also a publishing coach, right?
[00:00:23] April: I think I get more excited about seeing students publish their books than they may do being on the other end of a zoom call when a student clicks publish and to see.
[00:00:35] The look on their face and to actually be somebody who helped make another person’s dream come true about being as published author. I just, it doesn’t get any better than that. Yeah.
[00:00:46] Laurie: Oh, I hear where you’re coming from. why don’t we start at the beginning now we did do an episode together last year.
[00:00:52] Was it one year or two years ago?
[00:00:54] I think it’s been a couple of years. It’s been a while. Yeah. I’ll link to that episode in the show notes. Cause I know you had tons it’s of great information in particular stickers. I remember the sticker information, but just briefly, how about you tell us how you got started with your books and then how you got started with that coaching too.
[00:01:10] April: Yeah, I had been doing consulting for a long time. I had 35 year career in corporate America – IT geek. So I learned pretty fast. And when you’re a consultant, you tend to be someone who learns, who has to immerse yourself in new things and learn very quickly. I always tell my students by superpower is making difficult things really easy.
[00:01:38] So that’s, my job as a consultant for so many years. So when I started having, I started losing the love for what I was doing and I’m somebody that has to really love my work in order to, jump out of bed in the morning and feel like I’m doing something positive.
[00:01:56] I feel when that started to go South and getting out of bed was just. No fun anymore. The work just wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I started looking for a passion project because like many others, I just, I didn’t have the funds to be able to just walk away from my job. So I said, I just have to make things more interesting.
[00:02:19] And I had beautiful grand babies that I was reading to regularly. It always brought so much joy to me, reading to them. And we used to make up stories together with my little labradoodle on my lap. We’d be like telling stories, reading stories. And so it turned into a little labradoodle book and starring my grandkids and me and my dog.
[00:02:43]so it was so much fun and I. I thought it was going to be something pretty simple to learn, like how hard could it be to publish a book. and then I got into the process of publishing a book and wow. I’m a consultant. So I learned that fast and I pulled it together, made a lot of mistakes.
[00:03:02] And I think you learn more from your mistakes than, from the things you do well, but I decided, this is. This is something that, I want to keep doing because I loved what I was doing. And around that time, my job was eliminated. and I was blessed with a year of severance.
[00:03:23] Laurie: So
[00:03:24] April: what an amazing thing, when you pray, dear Lord, help me figure out what I want to do with, I can’t work in this environment anymore.
[00:03:31] I’m really hating what I’m doing. And then all of a sudden your prayers are answered. It’s wow. So I get a whole year to really just throw myself into publishing and learning, publishing my own books. So as you said, I have two, storybooks, Puppy pickup day is the first and then, which is about the day that this little tiny little insecure puppy gets a new home and it’s, it’s fun.
[00:03:56] It’s just, it talks, it teaches kindness and empathy and all the great thing overcoming insecurity. And then I did, the second book was an anti-bullying book, which was inspired by. Some of the activities, with my kids and my grandkids around bullying. So I wanted to put something together that would help the kids, create a safe space and start earlier than the middle school talking about bullying because that’s a huge problem.
[00:04:25] So I wanted to introduce this whole little labradoodle club joining and K L U V stands for kindness, love unity and bravery. So I had a blast creating that book. and I put a lot of heart and soul into that. We created a song, created an animation to go with it. and in the meantime, all this other stuff that was going on, we had, I have three, also three, activity and co actually four now.
[00:04:53] So it’s six books altogether for coloring and activity books, two picture books and a couple of more in the works, for picture books. So it’s been fun. And all the while, as I was doing this, I kept getting messages from other people, other authors and author communities sharing how lost they were and how difficult it was.
[00:05:16] And it’s not, it’s such a common thing. Cause if I wasn’t a consultant and didn’t have the background I did, I probably would have given up a long time before my publishing of my first book as well. And I think it’s somewhere around the neighborhood of 99% of the people out there that want to create a book, feel like they’ve got a burden yeah.
[00:05:36] Platform or a story that needs to be written. but they start on their journey or they either never start on the journey, excuse me, on their journey. Or they give up before they’re finished. So only 1% of the people ever get their book published. So I felt wow, if I can be a small help too, for that, the students that I work with to being part of that 1% and give them opportunities and coaching and help through the process to prevent them from just giving up and walking away on their train.
[00:06:08] Then that’s what I want to do. And my life just opened up. My heart has been filled with students that are just amazing. I can’t ask for a better life than this, and now I’m doing it full time and I’m not working in corporate environment. I’m not, locked in a cubicle and being told what to do.
[00:06:27] This business is mine and I get to grow it the way that I want to, which is really helping others. I
[00:06:33] Laurie: love that. So you help people get it published and then I take over and help them to try to sell it more
[00:06:42] April: great symbiotic thing.
[00:06:44] Laurie: Yeah. You and
[00:06:45] April: I make difficult things easy, so getting through that process is the handholding through that is really helpful.
[00:06:52] Marketing’s not my strong suit. Although I work very hard to learn more and more every day. And I take courses like yours and others, and I recommend, but my students do the same because marketing was afterthought for me when I first started. And now, I work hard to create something a little bit easier for my students to get through the marketing process and having people like yourself that.
[00:07:20] Devote and dedicate so much time into helping people understand for me marketing and practice marketing. that is just amazing. I kudos to you for all that you’re doing to help the author community.
[00:07:33] Laurie: Thank you. it’s fun because I started as a kindergarten teacher. Like I have no sales background whatsoever and so much like you marketing was an afterthought after I published the book.
[00:07:44] And for quite a long while I thought that’s just how it went. It just wasn’t going to sell. but I love it. I love learning about it. I love learning,
[00:07:51] April: the copywriting
[00:07:52] Laurie: and the content marketing and all that kind of
[00:07:53] April: stuff. And
[00:07:54] Laurie: there’s just no feeling to,
[00:07:56] April: for
[00:07:56] Laurie: me anyways, either to help somebody get their, but to sell better and
[00:07:59] April: be more profitable.
[00:08:01] Laurie: I was going to say, I don’t know if you saw my post. I have a free.
[00:08:04] A Facebook group that I’ve recently
[00:08:07] launched and we’re doing a book club. So the first book is about marketing. I don’t know if you have time to jump in with us, but
[00:08:14] April: I would love that.
[00:08:17] Laurie: Okay. You’re welcome to anybody who’s listening.
[00:08:19] It’s a writer’s club and it’s writers like my last name. So I think if you just put that in Facebook, it will come up. But I did use like some text arts and there’s a little happy face. So it stands out when your list of shortcuts, but we’ve only just started in some people are waiting on their books.
[00:08:36] So we’ve only read the first chapter. Of course, by the time of this episode comes out. We’ll be farther along, but anybody who joins, you can always go back and look at these posts. For the book club. And, the next book I want to do is branding. And then we’ll see where we go from there. It’s actually two branding books that I have my eye on because of course that factors into marketing as
[00:08:57] April: well.
[00:08:58] So I could use some help on branding too. I feel like I’ve got a bipolar brand going on. But I’m also doing all these different things. I don’t really want separate brands. So I’m definitely
[00:09:15] Laurie: Instagram. Do I need two accounts? I had two accounts for a while and then I got advice, put it together and I feel like I that’s such a good way to put it or pull or breath.
[00:09:25] Oh my goodness. Yeah. Okay. Can we back up and can we talk about your
[00:09:28] April: animation for a minute? Do you just mean like a
[00:09:31] Laurie: book trailer or do you mean like you had an animation made like a cartoon.
[00:09:35] April: So I actually wrote a song, an individ, a song for my book. It just, one of those things that came in the middle of the night, I had a number of people saying, cause my book is called join that K L U B.
[00:09:51]and so people were like, what does that mean? The K L U B. So I thought what better way of helping to reinforce what that means? Both to the adults that are looking to purchase the book, but also for kids is to put it in a song. And I had just gone through this, process that this day before where I had Camptown races in, stuck in my head forever and it wouldn’t stop.
[00:10:20] So I said, okay, can I write a tune to Camptown races? And sure enough. I mean that jingle, that tune is like so catchy. So this song, with that jingle in mind, and then I connected with and started doing research about, okay, how can I find somebody to sing the song? And then what can I do to animate the characters through the song, like in the song.
[00:10:45] So I worked with, With a couple of people from our author work group and we pulled it together. It was so much fun. And I have this really cool video and I had people from my author work group saying my child hasn’t stopped singing that song that you wrote.
[00:11:06] Laurie: That’s cool. Is that on YouTube? Will you share the link?
[00:11:10] I’ll put it in the show notes
[00:11:11] April: because a lot of people on YouTube. It’s a sense of, what the join the club and the whole message of building an environment where all are welcome and there’s no bullying allowed. And, the book itself tells a story about my little labradoodle Brady, who is very he’s like really, to me, he was the runt of the litter always being picked on.
[00:11:35]and it was happening at a dog park. but he had friend, a friend, that from the previous book who like, came to his rescue and kind of shoe the other dogs away. and so I wanted to spread, he got this idea that, we should join. We should, create a club where there’s no bullying.
[00:11:53] We all work together. We stand up for one another, and make it a safe place. Other animals in the park that were also having, not too happy with the bullying that was going on and had been victims of bullying themselves, all got together. They make a clubhouse, they create rules and they have little labradoodle club car.
[00:12:16] I have, Like kindness chips and things that you it’s like kind of this whole big thing that I put together, I was just really inspired. and my family has been so impacted by bullying over the years. With my kids and my grandkids that I decided it was really important to focus on these things. so I absolutely not only will I like send you the link to the YouTube, for the song, but I also have a link where anyone in the audience can download a free copy of the book for, creating their own little labradoodle club.
[00:12:51] Laurie: Thank you. Thank you that’s much appreciated. Okay. Let’s talk about your activity books. you have three of them and you have two picture books or do you have
[00:13:00] April: four of them? So I have, two coloring books before I started doing. And then two, and then one that goes with each of the, picture books I created.
[00:13:11] So four in total plus the two picture books. Yeah. So what I started with is just, I started by creating pictures of Labradoodles to color these books. Now, like now that you get in, when I get into and look at my most recent activity with the little labradoodle club, that around, has activities around bullying, it has coloring pages.
[00:13:37] It has, Mazes and, but also reflections, have you ever been bullied? Can you draw a picture of a time when you’ve been bullied or when you felt isolated and wanted to accomplish? There is, this is a book, an activity book that, kids will be using. Yeah. After reading the book, hopefully with a parent or the parent is being involved.
[00:14:01] In their activities. So you may not even be aware that your child has suffered any of these things because a lot of kids keep it to themselves and they suffer in silence. So I want it to have a way for them to share and to draw and to, journal as well as, just matching things and, coloring and, do some fun mazes and word searches.to dots.
[00:14:27] So there’s lots of great things for them to do, but also opportunities for parents and kids to get together on the same page about how bullying has impacted their child’s life.
[00:14:39] Laurie: That sounds so useful for so many teachers and counselors and parents. do you use those books at all to market your picture books or do you offer,
[00:14:53] April: so I do.
[00:14:53] I have put together packages where if, somebody wants to buy the book, the coloring book and the plush or the book activity, book and plush, they can get. a special package deal. Yeah. But I don’t necessarily, I haven’t necessarily used it as a way to, market the picture book other than, making those downloads available.
[00:15:14] So if, for example, someone purchases my picture book in the back, the last page of the book, it gives them a place. They can go and download the free activity book. and it’s all, it’s a printable, so they should out in many of them decide they want to go and order the book anyway, the actual physical copy of the book.
[00:15:35] But I think it’s a great opportunity whenever we can put that being in the hands of others, that just gets them thinking and, provide a free, some free service. I think parents appreciate that. I think it helps us build fans. And followers and, next time I launch a book, I hope when they see an email from me, they’ll remember the value that they got and they’ll be interested in helping, share information about the next book or purchase the next book for their child.
[00:16:03] Laurie: Yeah. I agree with you. Absolutely. Okay. So you have worked with loads of new and aspiring authors, and I’m curious if there’s some common mistakes perhaps. Over and over about publishing and or marketing more specifically if you have that. But, what are some common mistakes that that now you could address quickly?
[00:16:27] April: the biggest mistake is not doing it. Not even knowing what is marketing your book or when do I Mark it? Because I will hear things like, I can’t do any marketing until I have my book done. And that’s just not true. There’s so many ways that people can start building relationships, building a following, start blogging about the topics that they’re writing about.
[00:16:54] Yeah. And become known, build relationships with, with influencers. And, whenever anybody says to me, when should I start marketing my book? And I say now today it should have been less yesterday last week, last month, but do it now. And let’s start talking about what you can be doing. for example, one of the first things that I advised them to do is put together a publicity kit, some call it a press kit or a media kit.
[00:17:23]but it forces you to think about. You are the people that you are targeting, like who are you writing for? what types of, problems does that group have? What does your book spill for them? What answer can it provide? who are you writing for? Who’s your perfect reader. and in that press kit is more, write a description of your book.
[00:17:46] But speak to your perfect reader. what, how did they need to hear what is going to resonate with that? When you talk about your book I’m so working on that copy and, getting them, able to talk about themselves and write about who they are as an artist and what they’re passionate about.
[00:18:05]Laurie: and that’s so smart because all of that is the beginning steps of Brandon, right? Your target audience, the benefit your book brings benefit that you as an author bring, but it’s hard. I know for so many of us
[00:18:17] April: level thinking about that and understanding like, how do I even talk about it? I could completely.
[00:18:25] I identify with that because I was terrible when I started this at, who am I, or tell me about your book. And I’d be like, ah,
[00:18:34] Laurie: I remember the bio remember, cause it comes up in my Facebook memories. And so I remember having to write my first bio. I had to actually ask my best friend to do it because mine was, like she does laundry she’s mom.
[00:18:49] It was so hard, but it was actually a really funny post. So anybody who’s listening. If you’re struggling with your bio, write a funny one, put it on Facebook, like your personal page, and then ask your friends to write theirs. And it actually ended up being such a fun post because my friends all, chimed in with what their funny bio of the moment, as currently covered in bar for puke or poop or whatever it was because it was a while ago.
[00:19:12]my group anyway, had young babies at the time. But, but it was really, it was a fun thing to do and it loosens it up a little bit and that maybe other people will jump in with actually, this is what I would say about you and it’s just totally off topic. But if anybody does need to write a bio and find themselves stuck with it, ask your best friend or your spouse, or probably not your mom, maybe your
[00:19:33] April: sister,
[00:19:34] Laurie: your brother,
[00:19:35] April: I think it’s so important to just practice telling.
[00:19:38] Practice talking about it,
[00:19:40] Laurie: talk to you about it.
[00:19:41] April: so many people will ask you, what are you writing about? What do you do? and you could trip up. So just think about it, write about it, and then start telling people about it. Because I love that there are gonna be so many people that are going to want to follow your journey, but we hide, that because part of it is imposter syndrome.
[00:20:02] Part of it is. Fear of failure, absolutely hide these green goals that we have vulnerable,
[00:20:08] Laurie: To break out of that box.
[00:20:10] April: It’s vulnerable. But when we do it and when we open ourselves up and say, guys, I decided to do a things
[00:20:19] Laurie: and I’m going to do,
[00:20:20] April: if anybody’s interested, here’s this new author page I set up.
[00:20:25] If you’d like to follow my journey, I’m going to share a steak peaks. I’m surprised at how many people that’s so hard for, but when they take that step, all of a sudden I look and they’ve got a hundred followers, 200. Wow.
[00:20:41] Laurie: Yeah. Baby steps. You just have to start, you just have to start.
[00:20:46] April: And it’s such an encouragement when building that group.
[00:20:51] And you start seeing them encouraging you because they’re not just looking to follow what you’re doing, but they’re cheering you on and it’s. Yeah. Any thought as an arm,
[00:21:02] Laurie: people are interested in what you think and what you’re doing and yeah, your life is not just your book and it’s not to say they want pictures of your dinner, but they do actually like they’re interested in you as a person when you start putting yourself out there, which I think some authors find surprising,
[00:21:15] April: but it’s also nice.
[00:21:16] I think there’s like a statistic out there. I think it’s an 82% of the people surveyed say that they have a book inside of them. That should be written. So when they see we’re doing this. Oh yeah. They want to follow your joy,
[00:21:32] Laurie: even if they don’t ever say anything to you directly, they are watching. I, yeah.
[00:21:37] I’ve had so many people
[00:21:38] April: number of your friends and family, people that you’re going to touch. You could be inspiring something incredible and not even realize it.
[00:21:46] Laurie: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Okay. So wrap
[00:21:49] April: up.
[00:21:49] Laurie: How about you share with us? Do you have a big, hairy goal for your books and or for your work group that you read?
[00:21:56] And I know that’s grown so
[00:21:58] April: much, but yeah. So my I’ll. Talk about what’s going on with my work group. I am. so my big goal, which I’m in the middle of is to create something that will be easy, for people to take the work group sessions whenever they want to. So for those that don’t know about my work group, so I started with people who were struggling with.
[00:22:22] With writing their own book. I put together a work group where we would just meet weekly and we would talk about it and we would work together to help each other through the process. And I led a lot of those, meetings I brought in guest speakers and that has turned into, so far over 500 people that have gone through that program.
[00:22:44] And I just keep increasing and making it better and better. So now what I’m doing is pushing, putting it online in a. Thank you, of course, where people can sign up and they can go at their own pace. They can see my videos that I’ve recorded. They can, decide, Hey, look, I want to go and do a live session and do the live work group where we meet weekly.
[00:23:09]and they get the encouragement along the way, but I also wanted to cater to those people who couldn’t do it live and they just one reason or another, they want to either go faster or they want to go slower than the 12 weeks. My goal with the work group was to get a book published in 12 weeks and handhold them through every step of the way.
[00:23:31] Laurie: I think that’s the magic of your group is your weekly interaction. The live, the handholding, it’s like the weight Watchers program. Like the magic is when you go, you talked to people who are, it’s like a support group and so the same,
[00:23:44] April: or, and we’d go through step by step process. We, were always there to root each other on, one person sharing their latest, illustrations and getting feedback.
[00:23:56]I might be, having someone like yourself where you come in and talk about marketing. I’ve had others talking about virtual school visits and, so all of the things that need to be discussed and that we need to know about, I try to pepper that in with life live guest. And then I also, from Thursdays, for this new work group, I have a two hour session where I just show up and I, and it’s just free.
[00:24:22]I call it my drop in hours and I often open it up for anybody in the author, community, not just people that I coach or that are in my groups. I’ll just post online. Hey guys, I’m going to open it up to the public. but they come in and then wherever the questions take us, then that’s what we do for the two hours.
[00:24:39] And I can’t believe how fast it goes by lies because some people are struggling with, Hey, I’m doing this marketing thing or can you look at my press kit or, Hey, I’m struggling with Amazon ads. Can you help me through it? And I’ll be like, go ahead, go show me what you got and let’s walk through it together.
[00:24:57]or, Hey, I need to do a fit website and I’ll go, want me to jump into Wix? And we’ll throw we’ll whip one up here.
[00:25:05] Laurie: Not many people say that. And then another magic element that you bring to your students is you have all these contacts and resources. You were just telling me about your list of influencers. And I know you have a list of illustrators and you just, you have all these connections now, too.
[00:25:23] April: Yeah. And I think that’s my natural consultant.
[00:25:26]I’ve worked my whole career 35 years, plus it’s been about. Building strong relationships and collaborations. And because when you’re managing multimillion dollar projects in corporate America, if you don’t have really good strong relationships and, it’s not going to be a good situation.
[00:25:45] And even with the vendors that I used to bring in, I though was a strong bond and sell mutual respect between. So I do that. I do have a number of illustrators graphic designers. and I just started, a new thing with, graphic design where it’s graphic D cover design days with praise.
[00:26:05] So we just put praise Staffler and me come together and we schedule people in who need to have their cover designs done. And we just bang away, cover design. it’s every time I come up with something that people are like, I really, we really need to do this. okay. let’s put that together.
[00:26:22] That’s a really great idea. And it’s all about just making things better and, because once people get their coverage in lines and they’ve got something they can use in their marketing efforts, does that mean a show?
[00:26:34] Laurie: Yeah.
[00:26:35] April: And they can even do preorders of their books. Yeah. in advance of them being ready if they have, especially now that Christmas is coming right, we’ve got, we’re coming up on buying seasons that in the, if the book is going to be dangerously close to Christmas, you don’t want to be starting marketing in November.
[00:26:54] So by working through some marketing efforts now doing, getting the cover design, throwing things up on free order. we’re able to help generate the buzz for the book and then hopefully take really good, preorders or Christmas. You asked, I know I didn’t answer your question directly, but my goal is just to continue to improve the author, work, grow, and continue to get the message out.
[00:27:20] And, interestingly enough, for me, it’s, for me, it’s about marketing and getting the word out that this is yes.
[00:27:26] Laurie: Marketing the group. Yeah. Hear about it.
[00:27:29] April: Oh my God. I have to be in like, just point me in the direction to sign up, but. my weakness marketing today, partly because I want to help market what I’m doing and also encourage others to learn to market themselves and take advantage of your activities and your work.
[00:27:50]and then come and hang out with me in an author group. I, I do offer a free consult for anyone who’s interested in potentially working with me or being a part of my. My author community, but what I’m going to do for you, a podcast folks is that of the 30 minute, regular 30 minutes session. If you, if you sign up with Lori’s and I’ll give you a code, or you can use.
[00:28:17] It’s going to turn into a one hour session and it’s not about me selling anything. It’s more about me connecting, building a relationship with someone who needs help and let them, let the conversation go wherever they need it to go to help them get started. Usually that turns into more. which is wonderful,
[00:28:38] Laurie: but
[00:28:39] April: I, my heart is to serve others and to help others.
[00:28:42] So that’s always where I start.
[00:28:45] Laurie: Thank you. That is so generous. I will definitely will plus that in the show notes. when we go, when you share that with me, thank you so much for coming on. It’s always a pleasure. I always learn it. A ton. I’m always admiring even though from afar, because I’m not online that much, but I’m admiring everything that you do for the community.
[00:29:04] You really are a gem. So thank you on behalf of all of us
[00:29:07] April: right back at you. And I look forward to continuing to collaborate with you in ways that we can better day services for the author community. Help each other too, we raise each other up and, we’re all better for it. Yeah.
[00:29:23] Laurie: Cool. thank you April.
[00:29:24] We’ll talk soon. Okay.