Today our #KWLWonderWoman story is a little different. We did a Q&A with our fearless leader and resident superhero Chrissy Munroe, who was recently appointed Director of the Kobo Writing Life team.
What motivated & inspired you to work with indie authors?
Independent authors and small publishers are some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. They have two incredible skill sets: they can tell a compelling story, and they can run a small business, seamlessly handling both simultaneously as they build their own brand. I used to work on the “traditional” side of publishing where many layers of people make decisions regarding whether, how, and when a book makes the journey from author to reader. Now the creator and consumer are closer than ever, and I find that really exciting and motivating.
Where did you start out?
I have been a diehard book lover from a very small age. There are so many photos of family vacations where I’m alone in a corner, giant glasses on, reading a book. So I was obviously an English major, and I always knew I would somehow work with books. I moved to Manhattan to get started in the publishing industry, starting as a literary agency intern. I found it really disheartening to say “no” over and over to authors who had submitted their stories. These were people who made the time and effort to make their dream of writing a book a reality—who was I to say “no” to them? That experience fundamentally shaped my path in publishing, and when self-publishing started gaining traction, I knew I wanted to be part of it.
How did you come to be at Kobo?
Even though I was living in NYC, I’m Canadian, so I was watching Kobo’s growth from the sidelines with keen interest. When a position as the US Manager of KWL opened up, I jumped on it, and Mark Lefebvre hired me in 2013. It’s been an awesome ride ever since, building up KWL to be a crucial part of Kobo’s catalogue and growth. I truly love working at Kobo; it’s a company filled with booklovers, trying to get great books into the hands of readers around the world. I get to work with amazing authors all day, every day. How lucky is that?
How do you balance running the KWL team with family and personal life?
I try to keep it simple: whatever I’m doing at that moment, I do my best at it. When I’m at work, I focus intensely on my work. When I’m with family, I am with them wholeheartedly. I stay hyper-organized and forward thinking; at night, I have everyone’s clothes laid out and the coffee maker ready for the next day. Ok, I’ll confess, sometimes I even set the breakfast table ahead of time. That’s how I like to manage my work life as well; a combination of preparedness and hard work. I also have the great benefits of a strong team running KWL with me, and an amazing partner at home, both of which make a huge difference. I know there are people I can trust on both sides to keep the ships afloat when I’m not there myself.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Running a global publishing platform is challenging in big and small ways every day. One thing we work on is making one platform work for authors at all levels, with different goals, in many languages, across time zones. We overcome that by taking author feedback to directly improve the platform, all the time. We also keep creating more promotion and global distribution opportunities. And finally, we prioritize offering excellent, personal support, to authors at all stages of their careers. Authors get the chance to rate us after we answer their questions. This is my moment in the spotlight, so I’m going to take the opportunity to brag: we have days when every team member gets rated 100% for all of the messages we handled that day. I mean, you take a step back and think of all the different questions and issues coming in the door, and we were able to help every single author get the service they expect and deserve. THAT to me is success, and will be the true key to our continued growth as Kobo Writing Life.
What inspires you?
Seeing people tackle new challenges, and then share what they learned along the way with others. The person who takes a step up a steep hill, then reaches back and helps the person behind them. I see it happening around me at Kobo and in the indie author community every day, and it motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Can you tell us about any habits you have/things you do, which set up success every day?
For me personally, I need two things almost every day to be happy: time to work out, and time to read. I squeeze both in with very few exceptions, even if it’s only five minutes of reading before bed, or taking a walk in the middle of the day. I might also add two more things: coffee and wine. 🙂
It can be so easy to lose sight of what makes you, you, when you’re a working parent. Figure out what makes you happy, and do what you have to do to make time for those things.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I really loved the book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” There’s a chapter in which Mark Manson advises to Choose Your Struggle, which I felt was a really interesting, somewhat counter-intuitive way of looking at the major choices we make in life. Instead of focusing on what would make you happy, you should consider: “What is the pain that you are willing to sustain?” I interpret that to mean, every job, every partnership, is going to come with issues. What are the struggles that you want to be facing, and that you’re most willing to work hard to solve? Manson writes, “our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems . . . it’s a never-ending upward spiral.”
For me, each new step in my career has come with a bigger set of responsibilities, a bigger stage that I’m solving problems on. And each one has been that much more rewarding—mostly because at the end of each day I know I’m working on issues that I believe in, alongside people I want to be working with.
What advice would you give independent authors?
To be honest, I learn more from them than they could ever learn from me. I’ll flip it around and end it on a question—authors, what advice do you have for KWL?
Chrissy Munroe is the Director of Kobo Writing Life, a team of superstar women growing Kobo’s self-publishing business. When she isn’t corralling authors and strategizing KWL growth, she is mom to two kids and two dogs, and sits on the Board for the Children’s Book Bank. Before joining Kobo, she worked her way up in NYC publishing as a literary agent and international book scout.