Author, coach, and marketing assistant Mel Jolly joins us on the podcast this week to discuss her career and to tell us about her new book, Becoming Future You: Be the Hero of Your Own Life. Mel tells us about her writing process, how her coaching courses inspired her book, and she gives some great advice for breaking procrastination habits.
- Mel tells us about her career working with creative entrepreneurs, how she started working with authors, and the differences and similarities of working with indie and trad authors
- She explains how and why she came to focus on author newsletters and websites, what changes she has seen across both throughout her career, and where new authors should start when it comes to building their website and mailing list
- Mel shares her newsletter expertise and discusses finding your ideal reader, how to craft the promise to your subscriber, and how to find the newsletter frequency that works for you
- She discusses her new book, Becoming Future You: Be the Hero of Your Own Life, how it evolved from a coaching course, and how writing her book helped her empathize with her author clients
- Mel talks about the experience of narrating her own audiobook and why finding the correct pacing ended up being one of the bigger challenges
- She tells us what we can expect from her next, and she shares her best advice for folks looking to push past bad procrastination habits
Follow Mel on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube
Becoming Future You: Be the Hero of Your Own Life
Becoming Future You Podcast
Unlock Your 5 Star Future
Crappy Friends Podcast
Talking As Fast as I Can
You Are a Badass
The Power of Habit
Mel Jolly has been working with authors and creative entrepreneurs for nearly two decades. Working with creative people is a bit like herding cats, but Mel loves it and prides herself on keeping people out of the loony bin. Mel lives in the foothills of the smoky mountains with her husband and an assorted number of furbabies affectionately knows as the Jolly Zoo. Mel holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance, which means she’s not afraid of a challenge, a crowd, or a little drama! If you want weekly encouragement and strategies to help you find your focus and achieve your dreams, sign up for Mel’s newsletter at becomingfutureyou.com/newsletter.
Transcript provided by Speechpad
Rachel: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Rachel, author engagement coordinator at Kobo Writing Life.
Joni: And I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at Kobo Writing Life. On today’s episode, we are talking to Mel Jolly. She is an author marketing assistant and project manager, and she’s been teaching workshops for almost a decade. She has recently released her first book called “Becoming Future You,” which is a guide to help authors and everyone else who needs it become the authentic version of themselves and live a meaningful life.
Rachel: We had a great conversation with Mel. We spoke a lot about her career as an author marketing assistant and kind of what’s changed throughout her career in publishing. We also spoke a lot about email marketing and building websites, and Mel had some great advice for new authors as to how to balance their time between both. And, of course, we talked to her about her book, what her writing process was like, the courses that she based her book off of. And she has some great advice for overcoming procrastination that I definitely need to implement into my own life. We had a great interview and we hope you enjoy.
Joni: We’re here today with Mel Jolly, who is the author of the book “Becoming Future You,” and also an author marketing assistant. Thank you so much for joining us.
Mel: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Joni: Yeah. We’re excited to hear about what you do. Can you start by introducing yourself to our listeners and telling us what you do for authors?
Mel: Sure. Yeah. Okay. So I’m Mel Jolly. I have been working with authors for…I shouldn’t try to do mental math, since 2009, so 12 years. And before that, I was working with other creative entrepreneurs. So I have a theater background and I was working with actors. I worked in the library. So my career has always kind of taken me down this creative tangent and working with creative entrepreneurs. With authors, I met an author when I was working at the library and she started to discover that her career was taking off and she didn’t have time to do everything because as authors, you know, you’re trying to do all the things. It’s one of those sneaky careers where, as an author, I find that authors don’t realize that they’re entrepreneurs. They don’t realize that they’re solopreneurs, they don’t realize that they’re running a business, or sometimes they do, but it kind of sneaks up on them.
There are so many other things that you have to take care of other than just writing the book, whether it’s, you know, dealing with your fans, or social media, or doing marketing, or your newsletter. And this author that I befriended was like, “I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so busy. Can you please do some things for me?” And I was like, “Sure.” I’ve just always kind of had this, “Oh, I can learn that” attitude. And luckily for me, YouTube came out right around the time I got into this. So as my career as an author assistant and then an author marketing assistant started to grow when people would ask Mel, can you run my Facebook group, when Facebook groups were new, or Mel, can you do this thing? I would be like, sure, like, meanwhile, I’m over here like on YouTube going, “Can I do that?” “Yeah, I can do that. No problem. I can do that.”
And so it was very on-the-job training for me. And I’ve taken it to this place where a lot of times now with authors, I specifically work with them on their email marketing, so their newsletter, or on their website. And the reason that I chose to specialize in those two places is because so much of what you do as an author, you don’t own. You’re putting, like, all this content out on social media or on other people’s podcasts or all these different places, you don’t own it. Like, Facebook goes down for a day and we’re like, “Oh no, it was my book launch today,” or whatever. Well, all the authors who launched their book on the day Facebook was down, they weren’t totally out of luck if they had a mailing list because you own your mailing list, right? And you own your website. So mostly now I help authors with launch planning and working on their newsletter and working on their website. And I love doing it. I love getting books into the hands of readers.
Joni: As do we. Is your typical client…do you mostly work with indie authors or trad, or is it a mix of both?
Mel: I’ve really had a mix of both. And it’s been really nice because there are some things you can do as a trad author that you can’t do as an indie author and vice versa. So one of the things I love about working with my indies is when it comes to all those pricing promotions that they’re gonna do, so they’re gonna get a Bookbub feature deal or they’re gonna do a promo on Kobo, then we can plan all this other stuff around it, right? They know way in advance, they’re the one picking the dates, they’re the one setting the pricing, and we can plan to do a newsletter or plan to put it up on the website.
With my trad authors, trad authors sometimes don’t know that their book’s gonna be on sale. And I hate that that’s true, but it really is true. And for some of my trad authors, one of my jobs is checking Amazon or checking a vendor every few days to see, are any of your books on sale? Do we need to know, oh, look, it’s at 99 cents. We should tell your audience that it’s at 99 cents. So I’ve had a mix of both. There’s pros and cons to both. And I’ve found ways to successfully work with both trad and indie.
Rachel: When it comes to newsletter marketing, is your approach similar when it comes to indie and trad, aside from the promotions, or is it really different how you tackle both?
Mel: You know, it’s really similar. The nice thing about your newsletter, like you said, you own it, which means it can be an extension of your voice in whatever way you want. So when I teach authors about newsletters…I love teaching about newsletters because it gives me an opportunity to teach about more than just newsletters. One of the things I like to teach is to clarify your ideal reader avatar. So outside of the author space, you’ll hear people talk about the ideal customer avatar. So Kobo knows who their ideal customer avatar is, who the ideal person is listening to this podcast, and that tells you how to market it.
As an author, if you know who your ideal reader is, you know, it’s a mom who only has time to read in the evenings after she puts her little kids to bed, who still need a lot of effort, and she’s reading to escape, that tells you a lot about that person and tells you how to market to that person. It also tells you how to write newsletters for that person. So if she wants entertainment, you can write an entertaining newsletter that’s like an extension of your content, that’s an extension of your books, and then you can send it out once a week if it’s entertaining, right? But if you’re like, no, my newsletter’s a pain, and nobody wants to read it and you don’t know who it’s going to, you’re gonna send your newsletter with a totally different attitude, with a totally different schedule, and with totally different content. The nice thing about trad and indie is you have all that control. That’s always on you. It’s not about who’s publishing your book or not.
Joni: So you’ve been in the industry for, well, a long time in terms of digital publishing. And something interesting about newsletters is I think that’s one of the most consistent forms of marketing that still holds true. Would you agree with that?
Mel: Oh, absolutely. I’ve been around long enough that I have heard email marketing is dying many times over and it still hasn’t died yet. So I would say when you hear that, just disregard it. People are still checking their inbox.
Joni: Yeah. I know that that’s something that we’ve heard from a lot of authors on this podcast is that your email list is the most valuable thing you have as an author. What would be your tips to anyone that’s maybe starting out or trying to build their marketing list, like where do you start?
Mel: Yeah. So when you’re starting out, like the nice thing is if you’re starting fresh, I would do what I would suggest previously and figure out who it’s for, figure out who it’s for, and then figure out what kind of content does that person want to receive, and that will start to inform all your other decisions. So the next decision you’re gonna make is, okay, well, what kind of content am I gonna put in it? How frequently am I gonna send it? And it’s important to make those choices because it affects how you invite people to subscribe. So if I were to give everybody like a pro tip, the worst possible way to invite people to subscribe to your newsletter is to just put the words, “Subscribe to my newsletter.” What is it? How often does it come out? What’s in it? Who cares, right? Subscribe to my newsletter says nothing unless you’re so famous…if you’re like, you know…now I’m not gonna be able to think of a celebrity except for Brad Pitt. And I don’t know why he’s my go-to, that probably tells you something about my age.
But, you know, unless you’re Brad Pitt level celebrity, for Brad, subscribe to my newsletter, I’d be like, “I don’t care what you’re sending me. That’s fine.” Robert Downey Jr., do you wanna email me? Yes, please. I will sign up for that. If you are not that level of famous, you gotta tell people what they’re getting. I call this the promise to the subscriber. So it might be something like, “Would you like to receive adorable pictures of my dog, funny jokes, recipes, and book news? Sign up for my newsletter. Sign up for my emails. Would you like to enter a giveaway every month? Sign up for my newsletter. Would you like to be notified when my book comes out? Sign up for my newsletter.” That’s still just saying, “Okay, I’m only gonna email you when my book comes out,” but all of those promises to the subscriber, they’re hooks and they tell you what kind of content you’re getting, some of them tell you how frequently you’re gonna get it, and then they invite you to subscribe. It’s a promise and a call to action combined.
So if you’re starting fresh, write that promise, right? And in order to write that promise, you gotta know, what am I sending? How often am I sending it? What the heck am I gonna say? Which is usually where people stumble. What the heck should I even say? You can say whatever you want. People would get used to whatever you’re offering, but just decide what you’re selling. “I’m selling tacos. Do you like tacos? Sign up here.” Okay, great. Now you’re gonna deliver tacos.
Rachel: Do you find there’s a frequency for sending out newsletters that works? More is better? Or not necessarily?
Mel: It kind of depends. What you wanna do is you wanna become a habit for the reader. So you want them to notice if you don’t send it. That frequency, it can be quarterly, right? And they can start to associate you with like the time change if you’re in the United States or the change of the seasons, right? I know I’m gonna hear from this author every summer right before I go to the beach, you know, that’s when she emails me and is like, “Hey, beach read time. Here’s a book.” If you’re monthly and you can actually pick like, okay, I’ll send on the…I don’t recommend the first of the month. No, no, no. Hold on, first of the month is fine. Totally anecdotally, judging from all the people whose newsletters I do, if they say they’re gonna do a monthly newsletter, do you wanna know what day comes out on? The last day of the month. The last day of the month because they have procrastinated until the last day of the month. So I wouldn’t send it out on the last day of the month, but if you wanna be a habit, send it on the first. Send it on the first Monday every month. And people will eventually get used to hearing from you at whatever frequency you select. If you’re gonna do more frequently than monthly, make sure your content is killer.
I was reading, if I could shout out somebody, Melanie Harlow, she has a great newsletter. I was reading her newsletter and I was like crying laughing. It was so funny. And it was just something about her kid and something about skinny jeans not being in anymore and her not being cool enough to know that. And I’m thinking, oh my gosh, I’m not cool enough to know that. I still have some skinny jeans. I don’t know if they fit, thanks 2020, but I still have them. So it’s really your choice, but make sure you’re serving your audience because that’s really what it comes down to. When you are an author, you are offering a service to the reader. Your book is an experience. Your newsletter can be an experience. It can be a notification service. It’s not about you, it’s about what does the reader want?
Joni: On a similar note too, like how things have changed in the time that you’ve been working, you said that you also work with authors on websites. How has that changed in the time that you’ve been working?
Mel: Oh my gosh, websites have gotten so much easier to do for the last 12 years.
Joni: Oh, okay. Yeah.
Mel: For one thing, it’s become so much easier for authors to DIY their websites because things like Wix and any other editor that’s like a What You See Is What You Get, that’s new-ish, that’s amazing because authors without a budget can make a one-page website for themselves. The tripping point there, I guess I should say the challenge for authors is just because you can do it yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you should. And that might mean time, right? Maybe you don’t have enough time to do it. So what you need to do is you need to hire somebody to do it for you, or maybe you’re just not a visual person, right? That’s not your skill. You haven’t spent years looking at design and you put up your website and it ends up being, like, too cluttered and not easy for the reader to use. That would also be a point at which you wanna bring somebody in to take it over for you or take some classes, watch some YouTube videos. There’s probably hundreds of thousands of videos out there that are like, “How to make your author website.” I didn’t search it before I got on here, but I’m assuming that that’s on there.
But the things that you wanna think about when it comes to your website are, is it easy for the reader to use? And by easy to use, I mean, can they find your books? Is the page labeled “Books” or is it labeled something weird like “My Musings” or…? I’ve seen weird labels, just call it “Books.” That’s what they’re looking for. Do you have the buy links on there? I’ve been to a ton of author websites and all the buy links are broken, right? Or they only have one vendor, but their book is wide. If your book is wide, why don’t you have all the links on there? And most importantly, when it comes to your website and your newsletter connection, make sure that if you have a newsletter, if you’re putting all the effort into having one, make sure when people come to your website, they can find your newsletter, okay? So put it in the footer, put it in a sidebar that shows up everywhere, but use that, like, cleverly crafted call to the subscriber, you know, call to action, to entice people to sign up. And that way, you’re not just having people get on your website, get what they need, and bounce away, or get on your website, not get what they need, and bounce away.
Rachel: Outside of websites being easier to create, have there been any other big changes that you’ve seen in the industry throughout your career?
Mel: Mm-hmm. Well, I’m gonna date myself again. I think I was already in this career for several years. I was probably doing it full-time before I got a smartphone, right? So smartphones did not exist when I first started and now everybody’s on their phone all the time, right? It doesn’t matter if your website looks amazing on, you know, your 27-inch iMac, nobody’s looking at it on there. I am because I don’t love browsing on my phone. Everybody else is doing their browsing on their phone. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it is more than 50% of web browsing is now on your phone. So it’s gotta be mobile-friendly and not just like, oh, the whole website shrunk down. Actually made for a phone and, again, going back to making it easy for the reader to click links or to find what they need. If all your links are, like, all smushed up together in tiny buttons, like most of us don’t have, like, child fingers, right? We need to be able to click a button without clicking seven of them.
Joni: Yeah. And probably doubly so for newsletters because nobody’s reading those on their computers.
Mel: No. So they need to be inbox mobile-friendly.
Joni: That’s a great point. I wanted to ask also I feel like one of the changes, and I might be wrong about this, but is there still space for authors to have, like, a blog section on their website, or has that kind of moved more to newsletters? No.
Mel: No. You can still have a blog. The advantage to the blog…and I’ll just go ahead and disclaimer, like, this is not my main area of expertise, but your blog’s gonna offer a lot of SEO opportunities for you because you know that Google is crawling every bit of your website. So the more words that you can put on there that fit with your brand, the more it’s gonna help you get found organically. So just like your blurb and all the metadata tags that you add when upload your book to a vendor, if you’re self-publishing, just like all of that matters. And it’s like, you know, you’re sneaking the words like “friends” and “lovers” so that you can get friends to lovers in there and like “second chance” in there so you can get second chance romance in your search. The same is true on your website. So if you can write blogs that are interesting, entertaining, and related to your brand, I mean, that works great for Google. So when somebody searches for second chance romance that takes place at this summer camp that whatever, whatever, whatever, you might actually pop up on Google.
Now, I will say, you can also use content in more than one place. So sometimes authors feel like every single thing they write needs to be fresh and new. You can write a newsletter, send it to your mailing list, turn it into a blog post, break it down and turn it into Facebook post or Instagram post, and break it down even smaller and turn it into tweets. You can write the content once and then you, or somebody else, can proliferate that content into multiple pieces to go in different places. No one likes you enough that they’re checking your Twitter, and your Instagram, and your Facebook, and your blog, and reading your newsletter every single day, right?
Joni: That’s a great point. Do you work with authors much on social media stuff?
Mel: I do some. I have some legacy clients that I’ve been with forever and ever and ever. So I’ve been doing their social media for a while.
Joni: Are you starting to wade into the stuff like TikTok and I don’t know what else is new, Clubhouse, all the other new-fangled social media?
Mel: Tiktok is one of those things I have not waded into personally or with my clients. And one of the challenges with having somebody else do your social media for you when it comes to something like TikTok or Instagram reels, who’s gonna be the subject, right? So it’s probably gotta be you. So having somebody else do it unless they live nearby or they’re your kid, gets your teenager to do this for you. Plus, they’re your teenager and they can walk into your kitchen and set up the phone for you and film it. It’s gonna be hard to outsource something like TikTok or Reels. It’s super popular.
Joni: That’s actually the best way to do it. Outsource it to a teen in your life is the best tip.
Mel: Yeah. Get a teen…I’ll tell you, my most popular Instagram post of all time has been a reel of this dog that’s laying behind me chasing a toy, right? So if I were to offer a tip, if you have adorable pets, feel free to shamelessly use them to promote your book. Like, when mine comes out, you just can expect that there’s gonna be a lot of reels with this dog.
Joni: You’re not wrong.
Rachel: I just had a question when it comes balancing newsletters and your website, if you’re a brand new author starting out, where do you put your focus first?
Mel: Probably on getting your website up, basic, like the most basic, basic, basic thing you can do. You only need a one-page website. If you have one book, have a one-page website, it features the one book, it has the blurb and the ways to buy it. Then you scroll down and there’s like a little About You section that’s your picture and a very short bio. And then you scroll down and there’s signup for your newsletter, okay? You can build a one-page website. If you wanna do it yourself on Wix or something else, that’s a What You See Is What You Get editor, you can do it in a couple of hours, even not knowing what you’re doing, okay? Because that is so make it really easy on yourself, okay? But then once you have that website up, then move on directly to your newsletter. And then I’d build both at the same time, right? So your website only needs to get beefed up when you add three books. When you get to three books, you probably need multiple pages in there and you can build it out.
But you can be building your mailing list this whole time and establishing a rapport with these people. I started my mailing list personally like eight years ago, approximately. And it started out as tips for authors. And then it kind of transitioned into more like productivity and focus tips so that I could bring in people who weren’t just authors. And then it transitioned into this idea of becoming future you, and a future you is less stressed. Okay. What do you, present you need to do to become less stressed? Because I have this mailing list for years people are like, “Why do you have this? You just do it out of the goodness of your heart? Like, what’s your deal?” And I was like, “Eventually, I’m gonna have something to sell and I’m gonna have all these people that I’ve been nurturing over the long-term.” Like, you wanna talk about playing the long game, right? I’ve been nurturing these people for eight years.
So now I have my first book coming out. I went to these people a week ago and I was like, “Hey, I need help. I need help promoting this book. Are you willing to help me? There’s a free copy in it for you.” And I got like enough signups that I’m was crying as I watched them come into the Google form because those people I’ve been nurturing and helping and serving for so long that, of course, when I need help, they’re gonna step up and help me. There’s no timeline on your newsletter. You can be a new author with one book out, you can still work on nurturing and serving an audience. You don’t have to be like, “Well, you know, I only have one book out. My next one’s not gonna come out for a year. What am I gonna say over the course of the year?” Answer that question, who’s your ideal reader? What do they wanna hear? Answer that question and start serving that audience. The more you serve that audience, the more people you’ll attract, the more signups you’ll get. And when you need them, they’ll be there for you.
Joni: That’s really great advice. So your book is on pre-order right now and will be out by the time this episode is out. Can you tell us a little bit…Yeah. It’s very exciting. How long in the making has this book been? How long has it been coming?
Mel: I had a false start trying to write it a year ago. It is in part based on research that I’ve been doing with a course that I have. So the book is called, “Becoming Future You: Be the Hero of Your Own Life.” It’s non-fiction, it’s meant to be a guide for people to help them figure out what they want and then become the kind of person who can have that thing. So if you are an aspiring author, you’re pre-published, right, and your goal is to be published, you know, like your fairy godmother Mel can’t come down and be like, “Poof, you’re a published author.” You have to do the things. You have to struggle through writing the book and then revising the book, and then either pitching the book to sell or publishing the book. You have to go through the whole process and that’s how you become a published author. Nobody can just make it happen for you.
With the book, it’s really easy to see the progression with something like I wanna be the kind of person who is, like, less crunched for time. Well, if you have that vision for yourself, future me is less crunched for time, but present you keeps doing all the same things and like filling up your plate and overcommitting and agreeing to volunteer for that thing, you’re not gonna become future you who’s less crunched for time because present you is still making the same decisions. So I designed this book to be a guide in that way to help you figure out what you want and then become the kind of person who’s gonna get there. And I talk to myself around enough that I forgot your original question. So give it to me again and I know I was looping it back.
Joni: No, you’re getting there. It was, how did the book come about in the first place?
Mel: Oh, okay. Okay. So the very end of that answer is I started a course called Unlock Your 5-Star Future almost three years ago. And the first time I taught it, I called it Master Plan Boot Camp. And I taught it live several times over a year, and then I prerecorded it, and then I started like leading people through it. And it went from a four-week course to an eight-week course. All this to say in working with my students and my coaching clients, that’s how this book came about. It’s my stories. It’s my experience of going from the kind of person who…I was the most negative person you’ve ever met.
Joni: No way.
Mel: I know. It’s hard to believe, right? It’s absolutely true. I was so negative. And at the end of 2014, I said to myself, “I don’t wanna be this way anymore.” I think I had just turned 30 that year. So I was at the end of being 30 and I didn’t recognize myself. It felt like I was wearing the wrong skin. Like, I would hear words like negative gossipy, ugly things come out of my mouth and think, “Who is talking right now?” But I had become that kind of person, like, because I was hanging out with a certain type of person. I was taking in certain input. I felt a certain way about myself. I wasn’t taking care of myself. So I said, “Okay, I am going to become a positive person,” no idea how I was gonna do it. None. I made that decision and I spent the next day sobbing. Like, my poor husband, we had driven to Missouri to visit my family. I live in North Carolina, so it’s a 12-hour drive. Twelve hours in the car with me just leaning against the window on the passenger side just like sobbing, sobbing, sobbing. The poor guy’s just like side-eyeing me, “Everything okay over there?” I’m like, “I don’t know.”
But after I went through my grieving process, I’d made that decision. So I had no choice but to start doing the work. I found a book. I found a book and I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll read this book.” And I learned some things from the book. And I did some things from that book. And then I found this person online. I started following her and it was a long process, but eventually, I became the person you see in front of you, right? And I’m known for being, like, super upbeat, super positive. One of my favorite testimonials of all time, one of my coaching clients said, “Mel will kick you in the rear with her relentless positivity.” I became that kind of person. So I made the course to like teach that journey, but shorter because it took me five years. So like how can I help people not take five years to figure this out? And then the book is, you know, now a baby of…a product of the course. And what I’ve learned from watching my students go through their own struggles, right? Because we learn more when we look outside ourselves.
Rachel: And then once you decided to take what you’ve learned by developing this course and put it into a book, what was that writing process like for you?
Mel: Oh my gosh, it was actually so fun. I had a false start in 2020. I started writing the book in 2020. It was a totally different book with a totally different voice. And I was trying to write like I was somebody else. I had these other authors that were very influential and I couldn’t get very far. And like every time I write…I’m very disciplined. I’ve become the kind of person who is disciplined. And I’d sit down to write and it was like, it was so hard. It was so hard. Every word was so hard. So eventually, I set the whole thing aside. I said, “Okay, I’m gonna work on other things.” I worked on other things. I never went back to that draft. It’s just I finally reached a place where I was like, “Okay, Mel, your voice is the voice that you’ve been sending out in your newsletter for eight years. Stop trying to write in somebody else’s voice.” And when I sat down and started writing in my own voice, which is very, you know, it’s very positive. It’s very funny. And a disclaimer, the book has been proofread and edited. I followed all the rules, blah, blah, blah.
When I write naturally, I tend to disregard some of the rules of grammar, like start sentences with “and”, proofreader fixed some of it. So, you know, if you’re twitchy, you’ll still be able to read it. But I have a very casual writing style. And I basically wrote the book like a love letter to the reader. And when I took my own advice and I pictured my ideal reader, I was like, “I’m just gonna sit down and I’m gonna have a conversation with this person.” It was amazing. I was, like, giddy with delight and laughing while I was writing the book. And even the moments that were hard where it’s like, okay, I’m starting to like lose track. Did I already say this? A book gets so big you start to like, am I repeating myself? What’s happening? Even in those moments where it was challenging, it was still very fulfilling. Like, even as I’m pouring out energy, I was being energized by the whole process.
So it’s been super fun. I started a vlog on YouTube called “Can Mel Write Her First Book?” And I did that in part because I thought, okay, I’m gonna forget the process, right? I’m gonna forget what it’s like to be a beginning author. I’m gonna record it if only for myself. And then the other thought was okay, well, Mel, if you start this on YouTube, you’re probably gonna finish it because that would be embarrassing the answer to can Mel write her first book is no.
Joni: Yeah. What a way to hold yourself accountable.
Mel: I know, right?
Joni: This might come later in the first year of your book being out, but is there any part of like crossing over into the writer side of things that has made you empathize more with your clients or the people that you’re coaching or anything that’s more difficult than you thought it might be?
Mel: Yes. Yes. So I have always done marketing and I have always been post-production when it comes to the books. So yeah, maybe helping with pre-orders or pre-order campaign or launch or all this. I didn’t fully realize…like, I wish I could show you my list. It’s so long. I’m self-publishing this and it’s like hundreds of to-do items. This is not to put anybody off from self-publishing but, you know, the advantage I have is that I’ve been in publishing so long that I’ve had the opportunity to have great conversations, go to amazing conferences. I’ve been involved in the Novelists, Inc. Conference for years now. And I get to hear these amazing speakers, right? So I already have a strategy. So not stumbling through, I was already like I’m gonna go wide. I’m gonna do an audiobook. I’m gonna get the print version up. Because I knew all those things though, the list gets longer and longer and longer and longer and longer. It’s not just getting the final ebook file up. And even that is a ton of work.
So yes, I empathize with my clients more. I understand why during, you know, like launch week or pre-launch week, and especially for my indies who are, I love them, but let’s say deadline-oriented. So they’re like, “Okay, when you say it has to be uploaded by midnight, is that like 11:59, or is it 12:00 a.m. that I can get it uploaded?” So I empathize now with them trying to make this, like, giant list of things to do. And I know one thing I’m gonna do for me that I was shocked one of my clients didn’t already have in doing some coaching with this client and some consulting, she realized that one of the things she needed to do was make a template to-do list. Every time I’m gonna publish…she has like 30 books out. Every time I need to publish and you do this, this, this, this, this, and schedule the newsletter and upload to Kobo and do all these things in this order. And I was thinking, “You don’t have that list already? You’ve published 30 books just like off the cuff? What do you write the list every time on paper?”
Joni: You’re a project manager. This is what you do, right?
Mel: It is. It is. So my list is enormous and I’ll never have to make it again. Like, with the next book, I’ll tweak it. You know, I will learn things. I’ll change the order, but I’m never gonna have to make it from scratch again.
Rachel: So I’m just curious, who is your ideal reader for this book?
Mel: Oh, that is a great question. Okay. So a lot of the people I coach influenced who this ideal reader was based on me attracting them in my course, Unlock Your 5-Star Future, but they are generally women. This is not to say, men, that this book is not for you, but it’s generally women because I find that women tend to put themselves last on the priority list. So it’s women who are caregivers. So whether they’re caring for pets or plants or aging parents or kids, but they’ve been doing it long enough that they have finally started to notice the wear down. So sometimes you get into caregiving and for the first six months or so, you’re just surviving and you’re just getting by and it’s fine, everything’s fine. But then you get a few years down the road.
And past Mel, even though she wasn’t caring for aging parents or kids, really anybody but dogs and her husband and herself, she came to that realization, oh, I’m putting my life on hold. My life is just passing me by. I’m going through the motions, I’m getting older, and I don’t know where my potential is. I had it, I haven’t done anything with it. It’s people who are on the cusp of going, okay, I’m uncomfortable enough that I want something to be different. I don’t want another year to go by and me to still be in this exact spot.
Joni: That makes a lot of sense. And for anybody who is listening who might be interested in coaching services, who’s your ideal client? Like, who do you like working with and who are the people that might benefit from what you offer?
Mel: Yeah. So I do two different kinds of coaching. I do the Becoming Future You coaching. And so that is exactly like we’re talking about with the book, getting clarity on who you wanna become and then us creating a roadmap to get you there. So included on that roadmap might be like, okay, well, what habits do you need to become that kind of person? What habits do you maybe not need to do anymore to become that kind of person? What do you need to learn? What steps do you need to take? With that kind of coaching client, I only work with people who have gone through Unlock Your 5-Star Future, which is the course. And then they can move into my 12-week coaching program, which is private one-on-one with me. The reason I do that is because the course is so good. And I’m not saying that to brag. I’m saying that because I put so much into it that you can go through it and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t even need to work with Mel privately.” It’s fine.
I got everything I needed because I made it like a DIY coaching program. It’s 100 pages worth of questions, worksheets for you to fill out. So there’s no way you can do even 50% of the course and not know more about yourself than you did when you started. It’s so foundational that I don’t want to be inefficient with our time together working one-on-one without them having gone through that. The other type of coaching consulting I offer is for authors. And there’s no pee-requisites for that. So for that, it might be working on your career. It might be talking about launch planning. It might be talking about email marketing. Those are more like one-off consults. And you can find me and all my stuff at becomingfutureyou.com.
Joni: Awesome. And I wanted to ask you also about your podcast. Can you tell our listeners a little bit?
Mel: Yeah. It’s called “Becoming Future You.” I did some very intentional branding in case you were wondering.
Joni: That’s awesome.
Mel: Yeah. My Instagram handle also, by the way, is @becomingfutureyou. So yeah, the podcast is usually me teaching. Sometimes I do interviews with people, but it’s me teaching and breaking down things like habits or productivity or being more efficient with your time and breaking it down in a way that it’s really actionable in the moment. So you can listen to one of my podcasts and go, “Okay, you know what? Mel is right. I know that future me is more organized.” The ideal version of myself has about 50% less stuff in her house, which is also the ideal version of myself, right? I’m working on becoming…Yeah, I see you both. So if that’s the ideal version of you, okay. If we talk about that in an episode, you can walk away and go, “All right, well, this is important to me. It’s not just magically happening, which is weird, but I guess I’m gonna have to do something about it.”
And in the episode, I might suggest that you put it on your calendar, block scheduling. Man, if you wanna declutter, every Sunday, give yourself two hours and you’re like, this is my decluttering time. If something else comes up, I move that block of time, but I still get to it. I still do it. Maybe I move it to Saturday. But you actually take action and work on becoming that version of yourself. So the podcast is all about action. I love podcasts and I love taking in different forms of education entertainment. It drives me crazy when they tell me how to think but not what to do. Like, just visualize and…That’s great. What do I do with it now? So I can’t help but turn everything into, “And now, go forth and do this.”
Rachel: Outside of your own podcast, do you have a favorite that you listen to habitually?
Mel: Oh, that’s a good question. Lately, I have been listening to the “Crappy Friends” podcast, which is Kristan Higgins and Joss Dey. They’re both authors. But the podcast is about female friendships, which I find super interesting. They’re talking about all these different types of friends. So the friends that are draped in red flags and like, “Oh, honey, no, this is not gonna be a good friend for you,” or the friend that just kind of like slowly fades out of your life, or the friend that wants more and more and more and more and more of your time. And I’ve always found relationships to be really interesting. And they are having a really good time when they record it. You know those podcasts where you can just like hear the people smiling and laughing and you can tell they genuinely care. It just feels like hanging out with your friends.
Joni: Yeah. This is one of the things I love about podcasts too. And we saw that you are also narrating your own audiobook. How’s that been?
Mel: I am.
Joni: Now that I know you have a theater background, it makes more sense. I can see that because it’s hard, right?
Mel: Oh my gosh, it’s way harder than I thought it was gonna be. So we built this like fortress of blankets in my basement. We hung moving blankets from the rafters. YouTube people, we learned this on YouTube, how to set up a recording studio in your house. So it’s got like a blanket ceiling and a blanket floor. And this little dog tries to come into the studio with me and I’ve got this plastic tub, like a Rubbermaid tub that’s got my Yeti microphone and like a whole bunch of foam in it. The hardest part has been talking slow enough, but not so slow that you sound insane. That’s been the hardest part is figuring out the rhythm because if you listen to audiobooks, a lot of them are really slow. They’re way slower than you would talk in person.
Joni: That’s true.
Mel: And that’s because people then like speed it up and they listen at one-and-a-half speed or they listen at two-time speed or whatever. So it’s been trying to pick a rhythm and stay at the same rhythm. So I might have to rerecord the first chapter that I did because I don’t like the rhythm. I don’t feel like the rhythm in that one is right. So I’m really excited though. And, you know, earlier I said, oh, if you can’t do websites, hire somebody because delegating is important. I would never delegate this because so much of my teaching is me I wouldn’t want somebody else reading my words in this case with it being non-fiction. If I wrote a fiction book, fine, I don’t care. Don’t wanna read my own words. But with it being me with a love letter to the reader, I feel like it has to be my voice, right? So even though it’s a challenge, totally gonna be worth it in the end. I wanted it to release simultaneously. I think that actually might be possible on Kobo. I think Kobo’s processing times are gonna be short enough that I can make that happen. The other platforms, it’s probably gonna come up a couple of weeks later.
Rachel: It would also very much struggle with the pacing. I speak as though I’m in an episode of “Gilmore Girls” 90% of the time. So just like rapid fire with references. How did you manage to slow down? Did you have to listen to yourself a lot?
Mel: Yeah. It’s really funny that you say that because I’m doing probably the worst possible thing, which is rewatching “Gilmore Girls.”
Rachel: Nothing wrong with that.
Mel: I’m rewatching the whole thing right now. Yes. I did have to listen to myself. I also just put myself on Instagram live a few times and had some friends watch and was like, “What do you think? Is this okay?” And I’m fixing a lot in editing. So as long as I can get the sentence strung together correctly, then I’m making the pause between sentences the same all the time. Man, Youtube’s great for learning to edit your own audiobook by the way. There are some amazing plugins. If you have Adobe Audition, you can do so much stuff. And it’s not that hard, but it has been like going, okay, do I sound crazy? Because it’s slow enough that I’m worried, like, I’m not even carrying like a whole thought through?
Joni: Yeah. It’s a minefield. And it blew my mind the first time I heard that people speed up audiobooks to listen to them because it seems weird to me, but you’re right, like most people do it. Rachel does it apparently.
Mel: I don’t.
Rachel: I do for non-fiction a lot of the time.
Joni: And you’re not alone. So yeah, it’s important to think about when you’re recording.
Mel: Yeah. So at the very least, you have to keep the same pace. So if they’re listening at two-time speed, it’s not all of a sudden like you are Lorelai Gilmore, and it’s impossible to understand, which by the way, her audiobook’s great, “Talking as Fast as I Can.” It’s really good.
Rachel: I love Lauren Graham.
Joni: It’s an exciting challenge though. And do you have more books planned for the future? Is this gonna be the first of many?
Mel: It’s gonna be the first of many. The next one is called “Stop Sabotaging Future You.”
Joni: Ooh, love that. And you’ve already started?
Mel: I’ve started in that I have a class online that I’ve taught before called Stop Sabotaging Future You. And it’s a topic that resonates with people, again, because of this disconnect being doing present you and future you. Like, September you is so busy, right? You’re so busy, you’ve got all this stuff on your plate, but you agree to do this thing in November because November you is gonna be fine. Like, November you will definitely have figured a bunch of things out. It’ll all be off your plate and still be so chill. And then you get to November and November you is like, “Oh, what is wrong with me? Why did I agree to this?” So it’s fixing some of those common sabotage problems like procrastination, perfectionism, which isn’t…there’s no such thing as perfect. So what a great way to sabotage yourself. All these different ways that we could be doing favors for ourselves, and like, I do a favor every week for future me by making a list of the things that I need to do this week and then putting it on my calendar, you know, project manager style, right? But that’s a favor I do for future me so that on Tuesday at 10:00, I don’t have to wonder what I’m supposed to be doing because Sunday Mel decided you’re gonna work on this person’s Twitter account right now. Enjoy.
Joni: Yeah, this is very relatable. I’m constantly deciding that tomorrow me wants to get up at 6:00 a.m. and work out. And the next day it’s like, no, I’m sorry, who made this promise? Not me.
Mel: Yes! Yes. Or, you know, like tomorrow you will be fine with the fact that…like, for me, it’s usually food examples. So like, tomorrow me is gonna be fine with the fact that I ate this giant piece of ice cream cake even though I have to record my audiobook. And then tomorrow me is like clearing her throat because I ate too much dairy. So it’s not having that. Or with that book, I would say my goal will be to help people have a better connection between near-future you and what you’re doing presently.
Rachel: Yeah. Future Rachel tends to curse past Rachel quite frequently. Do you have, like, one piece of advice or one tip for a motivation or getting past procrastination that you would share with people?
Mel: So I used to be…I call myself a master procrastinator because when I was in college, I wrote every paper the night before it was due. Didn’t matter if it was 20 pages. I get the syllabus at the beginning of the year, or beginning of the semester, I would stress about it the whole time, like, “20 pages, how am I gonna write 20 pages on this topic? This is boring. Why am I even in this class?” Stress about it for four months, write it the night before it was due, get an A on it every time. I mean, they couldn’t even punish me with a bad grade. So, of course, I continued working like that.
And for me, what changed was I realized that my life was passing me by because I couldn’t do big projects. I could not write a book. Like, I’ve wanted to write a book, I mentioned this in “Becoming Future You,” but my fourth-grade teacher told me I was a good writer. And then I, like, tried to write a children’s book that summer and like that seed was planted in fourth grade. Fourth grade was like 30 years ago for me. So I couldn’t write a book because it was a big project and I couldn’t do it the night before it was due and it was never due. So those procrastination strategies were ultimately stealing my dreams from me. So that’s what it took for me. It took looking at the big picture and going, okay, my procrastination is gonna keep me from, and then mentally making a list, being a published author, having a podcast, having a course, all these things that I had identified were important to me couldn’t happen if I was Mel the procrastinator.
So then if you find that you being a procrastinator is not serving you, which, you know, it’s probably not, I haven’t met very many people who are like, “No procrastination serves me great, it’s amazing,” start with little things. Just start with something small. So if you procrastinate everything and one of those things is cleaning the litter box, just get in the habit of going, “Litter box needs to be cleaned. Okay, I’m gonna go do it,” instead of putting it on your list, and then scratching it out and putting it on the list the next day. And scratching out and putting it on the list the next day. And then like turning on the diffusers because the house smells bad, but you’re still, like, procrastinating. If you procrastinate making phone calls, which is something I did a lot, make the phone call, just make the phone call. I remember sitting with my aunt in her office and she was like, “We should call so and so.” And then she immediately picked up the phone and started doing it and I thought, “You’re not even gonna wait like five minutes?” And then I thought, “Mel, what’s wrong with you that you need to procrastinate a phone call?” So start with small things.
Joni: Yeah. I think if Rachel and I are anything to go by, there’ll be a lot of people that this resonates with and that will benefit from this future book. So let us know, we’ll definitely share it. And we always like to finish by asking what book you’ve loved lately. Anything that you’ve read?
Mel: Oh, that’s a great question. Non-fiction-wise, one of my favorite books of all time is “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. Disclaimer, there’s a lot of cursing in that book. So if that’s an issue for you, don’t read that one. What else would I say? What’s on my keeper shelf? Oh, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. Not a new book, but it’s the first non-fiction book I ever read that I was like, “Oh, non-fiction is fun. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know non-fiction could be fun.” But it’s a page-turner. The man tells stories and then leaves you on a cliffhanger and goes to the next chapter. And you’re like, “But what about the plane? Is it gonna crash?”
Joni: Awesome. We will share those links. Thank you so much. And we will share the links to your book and your podcast and everything else. Becoming Future You is your handle everywhere, correct?
Mel: Everywhere. Yes.
Joni: Perfect. Make it nice and easy. Thank you so much for doing this.
Mel: Thank you for having me. This is so much fun.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you are interested in picking up Mel’s books or learning more about her courses, we will have links to her website in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com, and be sure to follow us on socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Joni: Podcast is produced by Rachel Wharton and Joni Di Placido. Our editor is Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker. Big thanks to Mel Jolly for being our guest. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.