Jen has been my best friend since history class in high school, and I could go on and on about why I loved her back then. But let me tell you what impresses me about Jen now. She has whole-heartedly followed her dream.
After college, she was an accountant in corporate America. She did this for years, but then she realized that wasn't her forever path. So she carved a new one. Instead of following what other people told her to do, she became an entrepreneur. She founded Feng Shui by Jen, where she practices and teaches Classical Feng Shui. She consults with people to improve their spaces, she is a real estate agent in Arizona, and she also trains others in the art of Classical Feng Shui around the world.
I remember years ago when she was still working for other people, talking to Jen about work meant hearing about overwhelming stress. These days when she tells me about her business, it's uplifting, empowering, and exciting. Jen has loved this journey so much, she has also written a book, The First Guidebook for Feng Shui Enthusiasts, which helps those wanting to start their journey into the world of Feng Shui.
I am so happy to let others get to know the amazing Jen in this Author Interview series. In it, I ask her 20 questions about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing her book. Hopefully her experience will help others looking to write and publish their own book.
1. How many books have you published and when?
The First Guidebook for Feng Shui Enthusiasts
(May 23, 2014)
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?
I started compiling the materials for my book about 2 years but didn't really start writing the manuscript until about a year before it was released to the public.
The book idea really came to me by accident. It unfolded organically while I was offering many workshops on Feng Shui-related topics. During my teachings, I discovered that there was a dire need—and demand—for an easy-to-read but straightforward, introductory book on Feng Shui.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The genesis of the book was about debunking modern-day myths around the subject; therefore, the most challenging thing for me was in finding a credible and respectable source to vet my work.
Everything changed when I was invited to be Grand Master Raymond Lo's apprentice. Because he is world-renowned and highly sought after for his expertise in the field of Classical Feng Shui, my hesitation and fears around those challenges were resolved with his support.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I had an editor help me finalize my manuscript throughout the writing process. Once it was completed, I reached out to Amazon.com to self publish the book.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
I had a very strong and trusting relationship with my editor. She had helped me hone in my skills throughout my years of writing and gave me very honest feedback. We kept the writing process very simple and at a 7th grade level to ensure the material was digestible to all readers. I enjoyed the process and felt she really wanted to learn the subject, even when it got a little too technical. And I appreciated her constructive feedback. We broke down the process by writing the book in chronological order. And she edited it chapter-by-chapter, and then once all the chapters were completed, she had a fresh look at the entire manuscript and suggested some things to be rearranged, etc. It turned out to be such a wonderful, enjoyable, and huge learning experience for both of us. Not bad for a first book!
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I think my editor and I had a very good set up from the very start, including communicating our expectations, roles, and end results. There were a few re-writing but it wasn't as painful because I felt she really heard and understood ME and I understood that she was only striving to help me deliver my best writing. Her edits made me feel excited because I learned so much from her eyes, and felt her edits made my writing stronger, better, and more powerful.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?
Yes, some. I recruited a few close friends to read a handful of chapters here and there. The feedback was mostly positive. If I were to do it again (and I will in the future), I think I would choose a mixture of people who are both keen to learn the subject and people who are also a little on the skeptical side to get a more unbiased feedback!
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
Amazon's art team did with my instructions and full participation.
I had full input throughout the process.
VERY. I wanted the book cover to convey a little preview to the book's content.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
I wanted full control of my first book. The initial book release was important for my work and for my reputation within the industry. And I wanted to be able to control its distribution, the royalty payout, as well as the content. Self publishing was very easy—a lot easier than you might think! However, there is always pros and cons to every choice.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
Mostly word of mouth, a lot of online campaigning including Facebook, they were also sold by close colleagues within the industry that helped promote it in other countries. I also had a few book signing events that came with a short talk, etc. And they're mostly sold when classes are held by me and Master Lo. And then of course, I get random sales from people looking at Feng Shui topics on Amazon.com.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
POSITIVE. While the book is quite general for the seasoned practitioner and/or long-time student, the book received rave reviews for setting the record straight and helping to establish the foundation for learning this complicated subject.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
Sales were strongest when it was first released. Now it's slower but I get steady sales whenever I am teaching a course. I expect it to go up again once I release a 2nd book.
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
I prefer print :)
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I set it with the help of Master Lo. He has published over 30 books throughout his 25 year career, so I just followed his recommendation.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How is that going (writing/editing) as compared to your first book? Are you doing anything differently?
Education is key and there is always still so much to write about, but doing so from a different perspective. Since the subject has been around for 5,000 years and done over and over by so many, I have to broach the subject from a fresh point of view. Keeping it simple, relatable, yet authentic. Yes, I am currently (trying, haha) writing my 2nd book. Not really rushing through it though. The biggest difference now is that I am looking for a publisher for this next book to help with the mass marketing.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your second book?
Yes, looking for a publisher.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
Hmm... probably when people started to follow my writing online—and demanding more!
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
Sometimes I make time for writing. Other times I write when I'm inspired. No hard fast rules really. But I do need a quiet space to clear my thoughts and write. I enjoy writing because it's educational and it's motivating to know that many people find it helpful and useful. My other motivation is to also help set the record straight for what this true knowledge is about.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
They're mostly curious about the publishing process such as the pros and cons of self publishing versus finding a publisher, etc.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Only work with people you absolutely can trust and count on to share the same goal and value as you. Be patient with the whole process but do make time for it. And finally, it's best to break down the start-to-finish process in pieces, so you do not feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Setting mini milestones for me was incredibly positive and motivating!