574 Jyotsna Ramachandran:
Is writing a book on your “some day” list? Something you know you need to do to help grow your … business … and you just don’t know where to start or how you’ll find the time in your busy schedule to write your book let alone promote it.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who is making it easy for entrepreneurs and business owners to finally get their books written and promoted.
Jyotsna (Jotesna) Rama-chand-ran is founder of the Author Success Academy and book publisher Happy Self Publishing. Herself a bestselling author and TEDx speaker, Jyotsna helps coaches, trainers, speakers, and experts to build a super-profitable author funnel with the help of their book.
I can’t wait to introduce you to Jyotsa! First…
Jyotsna (Jotesna) Ramachandran says she quit her job when her first child was born and while Googling how to make money online in India, she noticed a lot of people were talking about self-publishing. So she started taking a lot of online courses, and before long she was choosing in-demand trending topics, hiring ghostwriters, and publishing under pen names. Then she wrote her first book, Job Escape Plan, which became a bestseller and was listed on Inc.com as one of the top 10 books of the year.
It wasn’t long before people were asking her for her advice and that’s how Happy Self Publishing was born 5 years ago. So far, Jyotsna has helped over 400 authors from 35 different countries through her global publishing agency, Happy Self Publishing.
She also founded Author Success Academy to help aspiring authors finally finish their book, get it professionally published, market it into a bestseller, and use that position to grow their business.
You won’t want to miss a minute of this interview because Jyotsana shares important hacks and tips on how to write when you’re not a writer without overwhelm and stress, hacks for how to top the Amazon bestseller lists, how to use your book to grow your business – and much more.
So let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Jyotsna Ramachandran.
Melinda Wittstock: Jyotsna, welcome to Wings.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Thank you so much, Melinda, for having me on the show.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you all the way from India. I love that this is becoming a truly global podcast.
You help many people get their books out into the world, and it’s quite a process. And I want to break it down, because it often starts with knowing your “why”, your mission, what are you here to really share with the world? So how do you help authors kind of narrow it down and get laser-focused on that perfect, differentiated topic for their first book?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: This is such a great question, Melinda, because a lot of people procrastinate their book project because of their inability to narrow down on the topic, because they have 10 different topic ideas in their mind, and they don’t know which one should be the best topic for their first book. And that’s one reason why people end up not writing a book at all, because of this confusion.
So the usual thing that I tell people who work with me is this: I ask them to first go inward or go outwards. So this is step one, where they can just go inward and ask a bunch of questions to themselves and figure out, what is it that they really love talking about? What are the areas where people think that they are good at? So when you ask questions about your own interests and your own skills, you can come up with a list of topic ideas. Or you could just go outward and see, “Who is my ideal target reader and what are their problems and their pain points and their goals and aspirations?”
So that inward or outward approach will give a bunch of different ideas for people to think about. But once you have those ideas, it is important to make this book unique, because for any given topic, there will always be thousands of books, or at least hundreds of books, written on that topic.
So to make it unique, again, I give two different ideas. One is to choose a narrower target reader. And usually, if it’s an entrepreneur, I tell them, “Your target reader is exactly your target client for your business.” So let’s say if it’s a book on productivity, then I ask authors, “Should it be a productivity book for new moms? Or should it be a productivity book for a new CEO?” Because their target market is different, their potential problems are different. So it’s important to narrow it down. And by just narrowing it down, the book by itself can be unique.
And another way to narrow it down, Melinda, is to take one’s life experiences and journey, and instead of just talking about it as a story, also package it as a strategy. I call it your “unique trademark solution.” And a lot of people think, “Hey, I’m just a first time author. I don’t have 20 years of experience. So how can I have a proper solution or a formula?” But if we actually track back at our life and trace the different steps that we have taken to achieve whatever we want to achieve, whether that is losing weight or parenting or marketing, or whatever, we would have followed a series of steps. But if we actually put it together as a trademark solution and apply that in the book, that makes the book really stand out. So I think these are the couple of ways. One is to make the reader slightly narrower, and another thing could be to package your story into a strategy.
Melinda Wittstock: These are all really, really important points. I help a lot of people launch podcasts, and it’s much the same process. Understanding, what is your unique methodology, but beyond that, what is your mission? What do you want, say the book or the podcast or whatever it is, to do in the world? What’s the impact that you want to have it have? What’s the “why?” What’s the transformation? What’s the result? Because sometimes people don’t really have that clearly in mind.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Exactly. I’m so glad you brought this up.
Melinda Wittstock: What’s the impact?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Exactly, Melinda. And in fact, the “why” that you said comes right before even thinking about the topic. That is the foundation. Without the “why”, however great your topic could be, it’s not going to really drive you to finish that book or to market it into a best seller because you really don’t have the motivation to do it, because there are hundreds of other priorities, why write a book? Right? So like you told about this, Melinda, because that’s the first thing, that’s the foundation. Why should you write a book and how is it going to impact you in both your professional and your personal life? [crosstalk 00:04:56] super important.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. And how’s it going to impact your readers? This is the thing that I think is really interesting with readers, podcast listeners, content consumers of all kinds, you know, what is the transformation you want to see in their lives? Like your audience?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Absolutely. In fact, I tell that authors should have this written as a self contract. And it goes something like this: “I, _ ” whatever is your author name, “I am the author of this book, _ ” which is your book’s title, “And I’m writing this to help _” whoever is your target reader, “To achieve _” which is whatever result the book is going to bring about in the reader’s life. “And I’m planning to publish the book by”, so-and-so date.
So write all of this up, laminate it, and just hang it somewhere so you can read it every day. That can be a good reminder as to what is the “why” behind writing the book.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, that provides so much clarity, and it gets past your original point that a lot of authors never start because of this overwhelm that they have. And there’s an overwhelm, but there’s also a lack of confidence, right? How do you help people get past that lack of confidence around just starting?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Yeah. So people usually have lack of confidence because they think, “Am I really good enough to write a book on this topic? Because there are a lot of people who are already so phenomenal in that area or in that niche who’ve already written so many books. So what makes me the expert to now write a book on this topic?” This could be one of the reasons for that lack of confidence and that self doubt.
So what I tell authors who go through this, usually they will not know it themselves, but after speaking to them, I pinpoint that, “Hey, is this your real problem?”, and then they say, “Yes”, so what I tell them is, “You could either compare yourself with all the experts out there and get scared, or you could just look back and take a look at your readers who are probably just a few steps behind you.” And I feel that a reader who is really going through a struggle will be able to relate to somebody who’s just a few steps ahead of them, rather than the number one expert who is a hundred steps ahead of them.
So I tell authors that, “Hey, it’s okay if you’re new. It’s okay if you don’t have a PhD. But you could be very relatable to the reader who is your target reader. So it’s going to be an injustice if you don’t write your book, because instead of worrying about yourself, how good you are, how good is your English writing, instead of worrying about all of that, if you could just think about, ‘How can I help my reader, and by not writing this book, how am I actually missing out the opportunity to help all these other people who need my help?’, if you stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the reader, automatically, this self doubt will start to disappear.”
Melinda Wittstock: I think that’s so important. And it’s especially important for women to hear that because we’re so wired and socialized to really all be about helping other people, sometimes to the point where we put ourselves last, right? So taking advantage of that kind of natural wiring of ourselves when we’re thinking about the other person … I mean, this is true in all aspects of business, you know, when we’re thinking about sales, when we’re thinking about marketing, getting ourselves out there on Instagram or whatever, or doing that video on YouTube. Whatever it is, when it’s about the other person, it becomes so much easier.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: True. Yeah. And this applies to even the book marketing phase, where a lot of authors who’ve ended up writing a fantastic book, but they just think, “Hey, I’ll put it out on Amazon and let the world find me.” That’s not going to happen. As an author, it’s your responsibility to shout from the roof as to how fantastic your book is, because it’s not about you, it’s about the message that you’re sharing in the book that needs to be heard.
So again, of course, women are more prone to this problem because we feel that, “Hey, I’m not too braggy. I don’t want to talk too much about myself.” But hey, aspiring authors out there who are listening to this, it’s not about you talking about yourself, but you talking about the book which is going to help your reader.
Melinda Wittstock: This is so true.
`I mean, with books, podcasts, every type of content, the writing actually is probably the easy part in terms of the time commitment and the effort it takes to get your book to the readers. Right? And so, a lot of people forget that actually, it’s all the marketing that actually is probably the more difficult part of this once that book is done.
So everybody, these days, wants to be on some sort of bestseller list. And the fact that most books are bought online, and there’s all kinds of hacks and ways in which you can get to that number one Amazon bestseller status. So let’s break that down. What are the things that are really important to do there, to be able to hack that?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Sure, Melinda. So there are two things that will help you get to the bestseller charts. One is the traffic and the other is the conversion. So inside Amazon, every one hour, they update their bestseller ranks for all books. Not just books, for every product they have in different categories. And it applies to books, Kindle books, as well as all the subcategories inside Kindle. So every one hour they come up with the list of top hundred in every category and subcategory.
So what I tell first time authors is, unless you’re writing a Harry Potter kind of a book, don’t aim at becoming the number one in the entire Amazon store, because that would mean that you’re moving thousands of books in that given hour, which is slightly, you know, over ambitious for somebody who is self publishing especially, if you don’t have the marketing muscle of a big publishing company. And if you already don’t have existing followers, like millions of people on Instagram and those kinds of followers, then it could be a big task.
But what is definitely achievable is to get at the number one position inside a subcategory or any relevant category for your book. So here are a couple of things that I tell my authors to do. Now, if you have a marketing plan, don’t try to make the book a bestseller over a months time. Try to do it within a week, because the more number of people you can send to your book’s page within a short duration of time, the speed at which the book sells, that’s what is going to determine whether it’ll climb the charts and hit the number one position or not. So instead of selling a hundred books in a month, try to sell 50 books within the first week. That is more important.
So what I usually tell people is, make use of your existing audience or the audiences of people you know, by going on their podcasts and things like that. And also, make use of some promotional websites that have a huge reader base. So make sure you stack all these promotions within a week and get all these people to go check out your book.
So that’s what we do as well at my company, Melinda. When people don’t want to do all of this themselves … It’s not difficult, but it’s time consuming. So we do it for them. So we schedule these promotions and make sure that the right categories are chosen.
Now, this is the key. It’s not important if you just send the traffic. But what if your book is in a very broad category, like say self-help, and a big self-help guru has just launched their book and you’re trying to compete with them? Then the best thing that you can aim for is the number two position. So instead, have your book in a couple of broad categories, but also try to have it in a lot of these smaller, hidden categories, which are relevant to your book, but at the same time, it’s not too competitive.
And here is the Ninja hack. By default, Amazon lets you to have your book only in two categories. But if you write to their support team with a list of different categories, they can add your book to up to 10 categories. And that increases your chances of hitting the bestseller list. So these are some of the things that I would like to share, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I mean, all that inside knowledge is super important to have, and have that marketing plan. But it goes back to that question of, what do you want? Why are you writing the book? Is it to advance your business? Is it for credibility? Is it your kind of business card, in a way? Or is it actually that you want the book to be profitable? And there’s a whole series of things in between those two polarities, right?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: And so how does someone work through what that is? Say, take the first one. If you’re just writing your book because you want to increase your thought leadership and your credibility, and actually what you’re going to be doing is giving books away as a lead generation into your business, what’s the best strategy there? Let’s start with that one.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Yeah. So a lot of entrepreneurs go with this strategy, where it’s not about how much money they’re making through the sales of the book in terms of royalty, but it’s about how can they make money in the backend, which is their coaching business or consulting or their membership sites? So they may have a lot of different products and services, and the book is a way to market all of that without making it look like a brochure.
So what authors who have this as their goal should ideally do is, inside their book, they should give away something for free, like a lead magnet, because though the book is a lead magnet, and even if you market it in such a way that thousands of people buy it, you still do not know who the readers are because Amazon does not give out that information about the names and email IDs of your readers.
So for you to capture that, it’s important that we have a good free bonus, which could be a checklist or a downloadable cheat sheet or an action guide, that can go along with the book. Or even the audio book version or a micro course. Something that can just add value to the book should be given as a lead magnet inside the book. You could call it a free bonus. You call it a gift from the author or whatever. But just use something like that to grab the names and emails of the potential people who are your readers now, but could become your clients.
So once you have this with you, then it’s all about engaging with that audience. If you have a podcast or a YouTube channel or some way of adding more value, I tell authors, “Keep doing that. Keep giving a lot of free value before you ask them to buy anything. Once they follow you for a few months after reading the book, then is when you talk about whatever else you have to sell.” Ideally start with something that’s easy to buy, like a $97 product, and then some of them will upgrade to the next level and can potentially become high paying premium clients.
Melinda Wittstock: Hmm. Yeah, that’s super, super smart. So you’ve got your book and you’re getting it to the bestseller list. It’s really great for your business, right? For all the reasons you described before. But you also kind of want to make some money from your book. What are the ways to do that?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: I think, first of all, the book should be available in multiple formats, because usually the e-book is not that expensive. People usually price it for 99 cents or $2.99. So you don’t actually make a lot of money there. But I highly recommend that the author also has an audio book version, a paperback, and if possible, a hardcover version as well. So if I quickly bought the e-book, which was at a discount, but I really love it, then I will end up probably buying the other versions as well. So that’s one way to make money directly from the book.
And for authors who love writing … Now, why am I even differentiating between writing and authoring, is because every author is not a gifted writer. Some people just write one book in their lifetime because they just want to use it as a branding tool. Whereas some people fall in love with the process of writing and they want to write multiple books. Now, this is where the money is in terms of the royalties, because I have seen authors who write multiple books within the same niche or genre end up creating a catalog of books within about four or five years. You know, they have about 10 or 20 books written in a span of a few years. And that’s when they tend to dominate that category. They become the go-to expert for that particular topic. And when you have a series of books, the reader who has bought your first book will end up buying the second, third and so on. So that’s another way to make a lot of money through books, if you plan to make that as your main source of income.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s interesting, because you get the benefit of all the cross sells. Like, “If you liked this, you’ll also like that.” You get into that Amazon algorithm, right?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: And you can bundle them. You can do so many things with those books.
Melinda Wittstock: What’s the importance of having a podcast, say, around a book? I launched this podcast, funnily enough, because I was going to write a book about my journey as a female entrepreneur and all the issues for women in tech and for high scaling businesses, and access to venture capital and mentoring, and all these things, and just what’s different for female entrepreneurs, and I’m still going to do that, but a really great marketing expert said to me, “Well, look, before you do that, you really have to build your audience and your community. Melinda, why don’t you start a podcast?”
And for me, it was really ridiculous that I wasn’t podcasting at the time because I’m a former award-winning interviewer and anchor from BBC World and Financial Times Television, CNBC, MSNBC. All of them. Right? And so it was very intuitive and easy for me to do. And it was probably so easy for me to do, that I didn’t value it. Right? Anyway, that’s a whole other deep dive. But anyway, I went into podcasting and I found that this actually is what I love doing. And as a result of the podcast, now I have a big community, but I also have the content that I can repurpose into a book.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. I think what you’re doing is the right thing that a lot of authors should also be doing. So there are two types of people who I meet; people who write a book and then they start a podcast, and there are people who already have a podcast and then they want to write a book. So people who already are in the process of podcasting and they are already building their audience, they are, I think, at a big advantage, because you know your audience a lot because you’ve been interacting with so many other people from the same industry. So you have a great network, you have followers and you have content. [crosstalk 00:19:41]
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yeah, almost 600 podcasts in with high-performing entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, you know exactly what the issues are for female entrepreneurs, right?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: So authors do two things. They either write a book based on their experience, and they take tidbits from a lot of different shows that they have hosted, or people just see if there’s a similar thread; “Can I just choose 15 of these podcast guests who have a similar line of business and create a compilation book?” You know, I call it an anthology, where every chapter is a story from one of your guests, and then you write the introduction and conclusion. That way, I think in a year you can put out four books because you have so much more content with you.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. That’s the quick way to do the series.
I wanted to ask you a little bit about the relative trade offs, or the pros and cons, of self-publishing versus going for a publisher. And as a first time author, it’s very difficult to get a publisher. So is really for the first timer, the obvious route, to do the self publishing? And what are the pros and cons of either approach?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Yeah. So it all depends on where that first time author is right now. Now some people could be first-time authors, but they’re already celebrities in their industry. The media loves them, you know, they’re already there and they have followers. So for such people, it’s definitely a good idea to first reach out to a traditional publishing house through a literary agent. And if they get selected by one of the big five publishing houses, then I think it’s definitely worth considering because you get associated with a good brand name, and that really helps in your own branding as well.
However, most people don’t belong to that category. I think the majority of people are just starting out in their business. Their business may be successful, but they personally are not a personal brand yet. So due to all these reasons, I think in sort of spending two, three years to get that approval from a publisher, and then even if you get selected, luckily, it will take another couple of years to have that book in your hand, and you miss out on the royalty, you don’t have the rights to your book … And in terms of marketing support as well, these days, more and more authors are doing much more than what the publishing house does. And after the pandemic, the bookstore concept is also dying down and most people are anyway buying it on Amazon.
So due to all these reasons, I highly recommend first-time authors to just self publish their book. But here is the word of caution. Don’t make it look self-published. Now, you still have the ability to make it look like a New York Times bestseller by just going to professionals for the cover design, the editing, interior design, and things like that. So I think if an author takes care of those things, the book will still turn out to be a very well professional looking book.
Melinda Wittstock: So Jyotsna, what made you get into this whole field? Because you’ve built this very successful business around helping people in this area. What was the spark that led you to do it?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: For me, the spark was becoming a mom. That’s what changed everything for me. I’m not from a publishing industry background at all. About nine years ago, Melinda, I quit my job to start my first business, which was inter staff recruitment. That ran well for two years, and then my first kid was born. So that’s when everything changed, because unlike before, I could not go and meet all these clients, I could not attend a hundred phone calls, because my lifestyle has changed. And I really wanted to start something which can suit my current lifestyle. Of course, I felt bad that I was not able to pursue that business, but I had the option of shutting it down and do nothing or look for some alternate opportunity.
That’s when I was just Googling how to make money online. And I came across so many people talking about self publishing. This was about six, seven years ago. And I found that very fascinating. So I just took up a lot of online courses to learn how to publish books on Amazon. So that’s how it all started.
So initially, I didn’t do it for others. I just did it for myself. I would just choose some high potential topics, which are in trend, and I would hire ghostwriters, pay them the fee for writing, and I would publish these books under different pen names. So I did that for about a year and that was helping me earn enough in more royalties that I could shut down my other businesses and only focus on this online business, which was so flexible, I could be with my daughter.
And then I thought, “Okay, I’ve done all this for a while, but now I think it’s time that I write my own book.” Because until then, I was not feeling very authentic about it because somebody else was writing. I was not even reading those books. It was making me money maybe in the short term, but it was not giving me a lot of satisfaction. That’s how I wrote Job Escape Plan, Melinda. That was my first book.
After that book got published and became a best seller, it was listed in Inc.com as one of the top 10 books of that year and stuff like that, then people started to notice my work. I started getting interview opportunities and all that. And many people reached out to me and said that, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to write a book, but I don’t know how. Can you help?” That’s when I thought, “Wow, there are so many people with genuine life experiences, messages, who need that support to put their book out there.” So I luckily had the resources with me back then, the editors, the cover designers and all of those, so I just put them all together and I started Happy Self Publishing five years ago.
Melinda Wittstock: That is an amazing story. You don’t necessarily know when you start in business what the ultimate destination is. You might. You might have an idea of what it is you want, but just following the kind of breadcrumbs along the path, like, “I’m going to do this”, “Oh, and then that’s going to open this up”, and then this and this and that.
Did you fully expect when you started in the book business, if you were, that you were going to be where you are today?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Not at all. Not at all. I was just thinking that, at that point of time, this felt right. But going forward, I think the kind of fun I had doing this and also the satisfaction I got after every single book got published … Because it was not just about my success here. Each of the authors whom I was helping, their lives were changing. They were getting opportunities to speak on TEDx and things like that. And each of their books are getting read by thousands of people every day. And that’s when I understood the compounding effect of this work. And then I started to take this really seriously, and I started to really work on the business.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so beautiful. And I also love that having a child was the inspiration for this. It often is the moment when women leap into entrepreneurship, because the other structures don’t give us the flexibility we need to be able to balance kind of everything. So talk to me about that early stage with a young child; balancing a new business with motherhood, and how that’s evolved for you.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Yes, this is so true. I think after becoming a mom, I started to take my life more seriously because I felt that, “Hey, now I’m responsible, not just for myself, but for my family. And I should be a role model for my kids.” I don’t know if they are really going to look up to me like that, but at least I just want to do my best to make sure that I show them the kind of balance that I have in my life.
So of course it was definitely not easy, especially in the beginning when your kids are infants. So now I have two kids, so during that journey, when they were really small, I really took a lot of support from my husband, as well as my parents in babysitting the kids, making sure that they are with them when I have client calls.
So initially, it was just me and my virtual assistant. But soon I realized, “I cannot grow the business if everything has to depend on me.” That’s when I started to recruit team members, put systems in place, made a lot of mistakes and then kept evolving that. So of course, I think after the kids came in, I became more disciplined, and as a result, the business also got more disciplined.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s beautiful.
So what is next for you? Where are you taking your company and what are the next big milestones that you’re aiming to hit?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Yeah, so I think the next big thing that we are focusing at Happy Self Publishing is something called angel writing. This idea started a few years ago when I helped my husband to write his book. So he’s a relationship coach. He always wanted to write a book, but he was procrastinating because of dyslexia. He thought he could never write. But I knew he had so much good content because he keeps talking about all the good stuff, and I really wanted to help him. So I just interviewed him. We had a series of 10 interviews, which turned out to become 10 chapters. So I just recorded the interviews and I wrote it for him. I was his angel writer.
So after that helped him to establish his coaching business, I started to offer this as a service at Happy Self Publishing. But in the year 2020, during the lockdown, we got more inquiries that offer angel writing than ever before, because I think people got time to reflect upon their life goals and priorities, and a lot of them realized they wanted to write a book, but they could not. And they started to reach out to seek our help to put this together through the angel writing method. So that’s going to be my big focus for the coming couple of years. And overall, if I can help 5,000 people to become published authors, that would be my ultimate vision. But for now, angel writing is going to be the next big thing.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s amazing. How can people find you and work with you? If they have a book that they need help with, help writing or whatever, what’s the process and what’s the best way?
Jyotsna Ramachandran: The best way is to just go check out happyselfpublishing.com, where I have clearly laid out our method. And I also have a button where people can schedule a 30 minute consultation call with me where I can understand more about their book’s topic, give them a bunch of ideas, and also see if we can help them with the next steps.
And also, for the listeners of this show, I have a free assessment tool, called the Author Success Scorecard, that can also be found on my website, happyselfpublishing.com. By taking this assessment, aspiring authors will get to know their author success score, and what can they do to improve that score and be more successful as an author? So do go check that out.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Jyotsna, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Jyotsna Ramachandran: Thanks a lot, Melinda. It was so much fun talking to you.