By Jessi Beyer
It was October of 2019, and I’d just spent $5,000 for four hours with a publicity professional. Only, instead of spending those four hours forming a new PR strategy for my business, I spent them throwing up. And, no, we couldn’t reschedule.
Despite the horrendous waste of money that ended up being, it was probably the best $5,000 I’ve ever spent in my life, as it pushed me to publish the manuscript I’d been sitting on for the past five months.
I’d just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in psychology, and for my capstone project, I decided I wanted to write a book about natural and integrative trauma therapies. The official format of the capstone project was a ten-to-twenty-page literature review, but I figured I could swap it out for a book, since the book I wanted to write would be infinitely longer than and take way more research than a lit review.
My advisor was not a fan of that idea. Despite the fact that writing a book would’ve been a way more intensive and impressive capstone project, he told me that I had to stay within the predefined “lit review” box. So, like any self-respecting entrepreneur, I spent the entire semester writing my manuscript, and then quickly penned my literature review three hours before it was due.
Writing that manuscript was one of the best educational experiences I’ve had during my life. I knew I wanted to incorporate published research on the therapies I was discussing and interviews with experts in those fields, alongside my own mental health experience, so I got to spend the semester interviewing amazing therapists and reading up on lesser-known but equally effective trauma therapies.
When it came time to approach the publishing process, I felt very strongly that I needed a literary agent and a traditional publisher if I wanted my book to be legitimate. After spending months querying nearly 100 literary agents and after almost getting scammed out of $10,000 by a vanity publisher, I decided my dreams of being a published author would have to be put on the shelf for a few years until I could build up a larger audience and try getting an agent again.
Enter the disastrous few hours with the publicist. Between bouts of vomiting, she taught me the all-important lesson that authors get more publicity, and encouraged me to self-publish my book. She was instrumental in opening my eyes to the world of self-publishing, and by the end of our few hours together, I hatched out a plan to publish my book in May of 2020 to coincide with National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Over the next few months, I stumbled my way through the world of pre-launch marketing. I pitched myself for podcasts, wrote guest blogs, and brought about a dozen of my friends and family members together for a small launch team. I, of course, wanted to hit a best-sellers list, but my mission was bigger than that: I wanted to change the life of just one trauma survivor. I wanted someone, somewhere, to pick up my book and feel like they had a path to healing that they didn’t know existed before. I knew that, if I could make that happen for someone, then it really wouldn’t matter if I hit a best-sellers list.
Two weeks before my book even launched, it happened. A member of my launch team wrote me a multiple-paragraph message saying how my book changed her perspective of herself and her trauma and how she now felt she had a better understanding of what was happening within her mind and her body. I’d done it; I had changed the life of a trauma survivor, and I was able to truly separate myself from the outcome of my book’s launch.
Luckily, the success train didn’t stop rolling there. Within 72 hours of my book being live, it topped nine best-sellers lists and reached the top ten in five additional categories, and since then, I’ve reached thousands of readers in nearly a dozen different countries. Better still, my book kickstarted my speaking career, and it was largely responsible for 10X-ing my business’s revenue within the first six months of it being out.
While it’s absolutely amazing to see a bulk order for 100 books come in, or to get paid multiple thousands of dollars to speak on stage because of the credibility my book gave me, the best part about being an author (and a speaker!) is the conversations I get to have with people. It’s the emails and DMs saying that I’ve given someone the courage to seek help for their trauma. It’s the one-on-one conversations after speaking events where someone tells me they’ve never heard someone speak so openly about mental illness before. It’s all of those individual interactions that show me that my book is still out there in the world doing what I intended when I first started writing it.
The moral of the story is this: you are the expert of your own story. No matter how many degrees or years of experience you do or don’t have, you’ve lived through things that people need to hear about. You have a message or a lesson that could change someone’s life. Don’t let a daunting process (or a stickler of an advisor) prevent you from sharing that message with the people who desperately need to hear it. Plus, you never know what levels of success might come your way when you finally start sharing yourself with the world.