Digital ChatterPodcasts

Digital Chatter Episode #011

By January 2, 2019 June 28th, 2019 No Comments

Digital Chatter Episode #011: Sandy Lawrence

Eric: Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of Digital Chatter. My name is Eric Sharpe and today my special guest is Sandy Lawrence. Sandy Lawrence go ahead and say hi to everyone.

Sandy: Hi Eric. Hi everyone. This is great. I’m so excited Eric about being here with you, seeing you again. And my thanks to Michelle Scism that we both know who is my coach, my business coach and through her I met Eric and now here I am. That’s what I love about this world in which we live the day where you know you can be on the air any time night or day live and in person and I love the love that, love that, love that. So I’m a publicist. I have a public relations company. I understand a lot of people don’t really know what public relations means but I help you tell your story basically. And I work with authors, mainly authors or speakers, coaches, business owners who want to have a book to share their heritage, share their story and leave a legacy. So that’s my that’s my passion, Eric. We talked about that earlier. I love. I just had an interview today with a lady that works with animals and as soon as she started talking I was like oh my god you have a fantastic story. So I love hearing people’s stories and helping them share them with the world.

Eric: Now, Sandy you’ve been a publicist for for a while. You’ve had – you’re an entrepreneur, a small business owner. You’ve worked with a lot of people and you’ve done this for at least 15 years right.

Sandy: Fifteen years. It is actually 15 years in June was my anniversary.

Eric: So congratulations. This is perfect. And that is a testament to you know a small business owner and for those of you who are watching this you know being in business for 15 years as we know, as a small is business, is very difficult. It’s tough. And I’d like to know I mean, how did you, what what’s your background? How did you transition from you know where you were back then and where you are now?

Sandy: And that’s part of my story. So I love telling my story. So I worked for a technology company for almost 20 years and then I was offered an early retirement in 2002. Sitting at my desk one Monday morning checking e-mail and there was this email from corporate and there was this offer and I mean I still get chills now thinking of you know just a regular day and a regular e-mail. And there was the one that changed my life completely.

Sandy: So I had a week to think about it and to make a decision and to let them know so I had to have it faxed. If you remember what fax is. On Friday, it was Monday I had until Friday to fax in my decision and it was you know of course the most difficult decision I ever made. And so all week long it was like will I do that. Well I’m not do that will I do that. Not doing that. And somewhere in the midst of that week my mother in law, who was an author came to me and said I know I know you’re struggling with this decision and I know it’s going to be challenging. You’ll be out looking for clients. Can I ask you would you help me promote my books? And I know you’re gonna do it. I know you’re going to. So will you help me promote my books? While you’re looking for technology clients because I assumed that I would have technology clients. I’m like Of course.

Sandy: So made my decision, I faxed it in and we got started. Her books- I had read her books before, mysteries, cozy mysteries. That’s before I knew there were different kinds of mysteries, but hers was a cozy mystery. And I set up a book signing for her at a tea room, because when I started reading her books around marketing standpoint and saw that every day Aunt Louise and her little compadres or entourage would sit and have a cup of tea and when they had tea they would discuss something going on where they were – she had one book about Ireland, one about Louisiana one about Nantucket Island.

Sandy: And so each time some mystery was taking place there. So I’m like oh a tea room. It was actually.. This is one of those things that’s one of those you know meant to happen things because my last day at work – ’cause I worked another month after I gave my notice – the last day they took me to lunch at a tea room. And so as I walked in the tea room and I had just finished reading her books from that marketing mindset, which marketing is definitely a mindset. And I was reading her books and I went in that tea room and I talked to the owner and said What do you think about having a book signing here? And she was all agreed agreed to it. So I told her I would take care of everything. And so we had a book signing there and it was amazing. I mean it was just launched my career working with authors because we saw more books there than we ever sold- than she ever sold at Barnes Noble or one of the other bookstores. Because one thing you hold up her book and Barnes and Noble even in the mystery section and nobody, and this was just an eye opener for me. Nobody’s going to walk in that bookstore and find that book. There are too many. But In a tea room. There were no other books. There were a couple books on teas and things like that but no, definitely no mysteries.

Sandy: So she sold this phenominal amount of books plus they paid for it through the registers so we didn’t have to worry about taxes so it was just a perfect, perfect scenario. And so we decided OK that went so well, let me see how many tea rooms there are in Texas. And of course there’s hundreds and hundreds. And we went on a tea room campaign. We gave away tea bags to everyone that bought a book. We would have a tea where we actually served tea and then she went on and actually wrote a cookbook called tea time treats. I mean this went on for a couple years before she actually wrote her memoir. And we did that so that that’s what got me. I mean I just fell in love with authors. They are so enjoyable so much fun to work with. You know I don’t know it just the whole concept. I never looked again at marketing for computer companies.

Eric: Wow. Wow. So that is, that’s an incredible story. What’s interesting is you got your first client right off the bat. And I’m curious as to what your mindset was and certainly you’ll tell me here in a second but you know what was your mindset thinking like well this is a temporary thing.,You know I you know I’m just doing her a favor. But then all of a sudden it’s, I mean obviously things clicked and started to move forward. I mean, what was your feeling going through all of that?

Sandy: Well honestly, I don’t know that I had a feeling, a long term feeling about it as just like a you know here’s a day to day thing which really taught me a lot about being a business owner because it is a day to day. You know we make plans and we set all of our goals and we have our accomplishments and then we live life day by day depending on what happenes. So she said to me you know I can’t pay you as much as you would probably make as publicist from a you know a best selling author, I can invest in you. And she did.

Sandy: She paved my way. We went to, I went publishers university. I went to a book expo America every year at the Javits Center in New York City. Oh my gosh. I was just living the life of a.. a dream life actually. And so I met other authors through her, other mysteries And then. Gradually I started moving towards nonfiction. But I mean I still do some fiction, I have a love of reading. I just had a great time and it was like now from a business owner perspective I didn’t do quite as well as I did the having fun part. Having fun, getting clients that are worth making money and being profitable. Not quite so much. So you said later we may talk about what I would do differently and I can tell you what I would do differently, no doubt, I would have a business coach. So it’s just I don’t know how. I don’t know how I did survive the 10 plus years without having a coach.

Eric: Sure. And obviously you know, even though this was your first client which is phenomenal to have right off the bat. I mean we tend to sometimes fumble around and getting that second and third, and fourth, and fifth, and hundredth client. And I think you did something very smart which was you initially invested right away in learning more about the industry. You know like you said you went to like publishing University..

Sandy: I knew nothing about the publishing industry. Nothing. So I didn’t know all the “rules” they have for traditional publishing and and now I’ve gradually moved more into this self publishing or independent publishing. Still doing a lot of traditional but I’ve learned to kind of balance. And what the marketing is like depending on what the publisher will do development. So it’s still.. It’s still a learning curve. The publishing world stays in a state of evolution.

Eric: Oh absolutely. Easily within the past 10 years you know publishing has changed tremendously thanks to companies like Amazon you know, thanks to things like eBay even just selling books, reselling books online things like that. You know tell me a little bit more about how technology has changed what you have done for business?

Sandy: Oh guys. So as an example, one of my first big breaks as a publicist for authors I sent out fax and sent out a press release and a fax, that’s how we know that was 2002-2003. I sent a fax for a children’s book author that had hired me. I sent it to all the television stations and all the things that I, you know, normally did. And the vice president of news for our local Fox station called me and said can you come down and visit with me? And so I did. And what I didn’t know was she had a children’s book and she needed help with the marketing. So she said I’ll be glad to help you with your clients and have them on.

Sandy: I mean we started.. It just opened this floodgate of opportunities for my clients. Even several times they would call me late at night or early in the morning and say we got an offer that can come down and speak on this topic because it’s really hot right now, breaking news, all that stuff. So I mean that went on as long as she had that position and that was several years. She ended up moving on to a new position and in time.. I still, I still have relationships that I made during that then and I learned a valuable lesson from that. And that’s the most important thing you can do in marketing PR is build relationships. And now so things have most definitely changed.

Sandy: Now we build those relationships online. So same people at Fox but I’ll send out a tweet to them, or I post something on their Facebook page and say hey here’s what we got going on are you interested. Sometimes they’re not and sometimes they are, I just keep on. But I reach them differently. And and now, and I really stresses to my clients it’s very important that you know the person you’re going to be pitching to. So I would check their Facebook page, I check their twitter, I check any other social media. Most of them have a blog, I’ll go read their blog. What are their interests and what are they like and how can I make that connection for my clients. And I learned I learned that through initially doing it face to face and are now doing it online.

Eric: Yeah I completely agree. I mean the concepts have not changed near decade through decade. It’s always about the relationship. Obviously the way we communicate now is completely different and we’re we’re doing the video right now. You know that’s going to be posted up on the Internet and people can view it over and over and over.

Sandy: And you’re in Atlanta and I’m in Houston.

Eric: Exactly. It’s incredible what we can do now and you know to think 10-20 years ago we couldn’t do this which is absolutely incredible. So tell me, tell me more how Amazon has changed some of your business.

Sandy: Yeah. So that really has a little funny twist to it because my mother, the one that got me started with this, would not let her books on Amazon, “not giving anybody 55% of my money.” So my mother in law has passed away since. And so I’m working now on getting her books on Amazon. I tried to tell her, you know 45 percent of something is more than 100 percent of nothing. And these people you’re going to reached through Amazon are people you wouldn’t reach otherwise. But she would not relent, period, would not.

Sandy: So how Amazon has changed my world and my, what I do with clients is drastic. I mean it makes it available, easily available for someone to publish a book without waiting on a traditional publisher. Not sure.. And I have some clients that want to wait. So there’s a tradeoff if you’re going to have a traditional publisher it’s going to take you a couple of years minimum to get an agent, sell your book and go there that process. And then on the backside of that when you just sell a book you get royalties which are usually 10 percent or less. Sometimes you get an advance and you have to pay that back. All that kind of stuff.

Sandy: So on the other hand with Amazon you can be online in 24 hours. You can sell the book, you can promote the book. You can also the book free. You know there’s just Amazon makes it, makes marketing a book very easy. And now even though Amazon Bestsellers, that’s the going thing right now and everybody wants me to help them with that. And even though that’s not quite the same as New York Times bestseller it’s a lot easier to get. And so I have a lot of people that are you know and I have a whole book launch plan to help them get to number one on Amazon.

Sandy: And and one of your clients Valerie Hubbard that I recently helped her launch her book. And we had her with Amazon put this big stamp across her book that said number one hot release. So you know, those are the kind of thing that you know we could screenshot, we can use that in our marketing for ever. And I think the more I understand about Amazon the easier it is. Amazon really is a search engine more than it is a place to buy books. So I use Amazon. I use the wish list, I use all of those things that are, that Amazon makes so available to someone who wants to market their books.

Eric: Sure. What advice would you give someone who is going out to write their first book?

Sandy: First of all from a marketing standpoint write the book with the end in sight. So know who your audience is. If you’re writing a romance, your audience is pretty easy to identify and you know you’re pretty much dead on. Just keep going. I don’t represent. I wouldn’t represent some romantic mystery. I do not represent romance. I love it but it’s not not part of what I do.

Sandy: So if you’re writing a nonfiction book then you’d even more important that you know who your market is, because you want to tailor everything you write to that market. For example this is this is not nonfiction, this is a fiction book. But I had someone who wrote a fiction book for children and she talked about witchcraft. Now you know I’m in Texas. We’re in the Bible Belt. Children don’t read books about witchcraft. So she was not allowed to do any book signings in any any of the bookstores. Barnes and Noble, any of the book stores.

Sandy: This was about 10 years ago. And so I told her you know when you you know, you can’t, you’ve got to consider your market and if your market is not going to not buy books on witchcraft then write them about something else, unless you want to sell them to a different market. So that’s the biggest thing for me is writing the book with knowing who your audience is and making sure that what you say you know doesn’t turn off your audience because if it does, you know you’re..

Sandy: I also had a client and had a book that was about this thick. And he wrote it with his audience being for teenage boys. I’m like OK I have four sons. I can tell you they would never pick up a book that size, period. I mean I’m fortunate if they pick up a little thin book. So you have to really consider those things from the beginning. So that’s the most important thing, write it with the ending in sight. And then as you write it and as you get it written then the decision is do you publish it yourself or through an independent local small publisher, or you work on getting a nonfiction book to a publisher a traditional publisher.

Sandy: And you know I still think in the whole scheme of things a traditionally published book probably carries more weight with the media than a self-published book. There’s still that little bit of you know that.. They couldn’t get it published do they did it themselves kind of thing. However if you’re a speaker or a coach, or any business owner that you’re going to be using those books, a book as a marketing tool then you don’t need to wait on a publisher. You just go right to Amazon and get it published and have your print copies and your e-copies and just start marketing.

Eric: That’s great advice. Thank you very much for that, I’m sure some of the people watching will benefit tremendously from that. I know myself I’m I’m little by little making my notes and getting ready to publish my own book here soon enough. And I’m goign through the same process of figuring out which market I’m going to write towards and go from there. So great advice. So now let’s switch gears a little bit. I want to know, you know why do you do all this? Why do you. Why do you wake up every day and help people publish books? You know what’s, what’s.. Is this a part of your passion? What’s in it for you?

Sandy: Yes, it is. It is definitely my passion and I love the, I love the nonfiction books I’m working with Michelle Scism who is my business coach on a couple of books that she’s working on, you know I love working with nonfiction authors. Coaches, business coaches, all of that. My passion is to help them tell the story. And it worked with Michelle Samon telling some of the story of her dad and the legacy that he left when he passed away about three years ago I think. And I think we just went past that anniversary so.. It’s that story. It’s listening to someone tell me I’m going to write about this whatever their field is. Valerie Dee.. You know she’s an actor so obviously her book Rules Breaker? Rule Breakers, was about actors and the role they play and how they did that. Behind that is the story of Valerie, you know her story.

Sandy: She’s got a great story. And I talked to her about it and I hope that one day she’ll tell her story because I think everybody has a story. And to leave that legacy now I think.. I told my coach the other day you know if I had thought the rest of my career was going to be just writing more press releases, sending out press releases, calling the media. Yeah yeah. OK. That’s fun and I’ve enjoyed it but it’s been 30 years I’ve been doing this and I’m like I mean 15 in my own company, but before that. And honestly I could go without ever writing another press release and I’d be ok but telling that story and then figuring out how to tell that story. And when to tell the story I just see it as bigger than that person.

Sandy: So this you know it’s like I was one of my clients a couple of years ago wrote a book called When God speaks and we were marketing it and she had to two books so we were working on the third one. And somehow as we were listening to her tell the stories of the different people in the book. And I got OK one of these stories is hers. She’s just not identifying that. And so I said Dr. Letterman. It’s one of these stories apply to your life. And she just I mean surprised me she just burst into tears and she’s like “oh my god I didn’t think I would ever be able to tell that story and let people know it was me I was talking about”. This was a great story. She’s African-American. It was during a time when you know a lot going on with African-Americans and so her mom was a single mom.

Sandy: And so it’s a great story. It was a great story. And I saw that. And so that is my passion. I got it from my mother in law. There’s hope. Why. I mean I wanted her to you know tell her story and. And so I just see these stories that people have. And I want to help them do that. I want to help them create a legacy or leave a legacy. That’s my, that’s my passion.

Eric: That’s incredible.

Sandy: It fires me. And that makes me creative and it makes it not boring it makes it fun because I’m always looking for the next story. Whose story can I tell now. And I love that.

Eric: And that’s phenomenal. Allowing these these legacies to live on. You know in word and spoken audio you know, thanks to audio books and everything nowadays. Do you ever encourage some of your authors to do audio books that the inflection or their voice can…?

Sandy: Yes, yes I do. And we have one we’re working on right now we haven’t done it yet. We haven’t completed it yet but yes I do encourage them to do audio books. I mean as many formats of the book as you can get. That’s what I recommend. I mean some people like to read the hardcopy. They will always like to have a book in their hand. Personally I love Kindle because when I travel I don’t want to have a bag of books to carry with me. They’re heavy. So I carry my Kindle and I can read any one of the hundreds of books I have on there. So and I love certain authors. And so you know once I found one author then I keep buying their books on my kindle and having them on my Kindle. So yeah absolutely.

Eric: That’s great. Oh yeah. I love Kindles they’re probably one of my favorite inventions you know along with things like the iPad and everything is just..

Sandy: The only thing I don’t own a Kindle. I mean I do had one years ago but now I just have the app on my phone or my iPad, and I’m gonna take that with me anyway.

Eric: Sitting around at a doctor’s appointment or something, you’re in a waiting room, you’re on a bus subway, whatever. Passenger in a car, on a road trip.

Sandy: Yeah, always. Always.

Eric: So what you know what, Sandy what advice would you give yourself, you know, 10 years ago if you knew what you knew today what would you have told yourself?

Sandy: First, I would hire the coach. Number one. Rememeber that.

Eric: Hire the coach. I mean, why is that? Why hire a coach versus you know stumble on the way I guess?

Sandy: Now. I could write a book on how not to own a business or run a business. I’ve become an expert on that. And I’ve done the same thing several times and all of a sudden I’m like OK. At some point I have to realize that if you keep doing the same thing and you keep getting the same results, something’s kind of not right here. So several times over the past years I have developed this, you know I’ve gotten out, I’m very good with people and I love networking. And so I get these clients and I don’t like to say no I get more clients than I really have time for. So I find myself working 24/7 and I did that for a while until one client. And so I had no time to really work at my business, no time to work on me and my company. I’m taking care of my clients.

Sandy: And so you know, after a year or so when they started gradually moving on to do something else or go write a book and they don’t have time to do the marketing. And here I am with less clients and here goes the cycle again. So I’ve done that several times and this in a.. So this just happened to me in the last couple years. And so with a coach you know it’s like “OK, why don’t we try doing something different this time since we know what will happen”. And so I am working on online products, having more webinars and got a course going up on Teachable and you know so I’m working on marketing my company for something that would be more like passive income but also something that could be continuing. So you know Michelle wants me to do funnels and all this kind of fun stuff so, yes. So I’ve learned.

Sandy: So looking back what I would do differently was I would.. ’cause I made all these decisions by myself. Business owners are all alone and I have my husband he is very supportive. But there were times he thought you know you should go do more you know computer companies they’re going to pay you more than authors will. So those kind of things. But I never had a person that could look at my company, evaluate what my profitability was, where I needed to go, how to be more profitable, put funnels in place, all that. So looking back that I would do differently in that case.

Eric: Sure. That’s very smart advice. I think you know I think at some point everyone needs to realize they need at least some mentor or someone who’s done it before. Not even necessarily in the same industry but just someone who can take a positive look into your business and the services you’re providing and help you set those goals and then keep you accountable, you know, make sure that you’re hitting those marks every month. That you know day in day out. You know, they’re not necessarily sitting next to you physically all the time but they’re there though and they’re making sure..

Sandy: Absolutely. Absolutely. So that would be the biggest change I would make if I could start this 15 years over again.

Eric: That’s good.

Sandy: And I think other than that I’ve built relationships. I realized from the beginning if I’m going to tell people how to market themselves I have to do a good job at marketing me. And I never liked when I would go to somebody’s website and they were like “Well I mean, we’re the cobbler’s children”. And I’m like, you know what I want to see the website that I’m going to have mine look like and I want yours to look like. So I always tried you know made sure that my marketing materials were all very professional, all that. So I knew the importance of that. It was just the getting clients, that process, that I kind of you know stumbled over pretty much.

Eric: Sure, sure. That’s perfect. So any, you know as we come to the end here. Any words, last words of advice for you know.. What do you want people to really get out of our conversation today?

Sandy: Well I want people to consider that we all have a story. And we’re the only ones that can tell our story. And honestly sometimes I’ll go and hear someone speak and they have a story. And I’m like you know I’m very thankful I have my story not that story. So everybody has their own story and last.. A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City. My aunt passed away very unexpectedly and I was there helping to clean out her apartment. And I watched as we.. It broke my heart really. As we threw away some things that I knew were very important to her but they were not important to anyone else. They were cards people had written her, thank you cards, all kinds of things, letters. And I’m like you know my I wish, wish, wish, wish that I had thought to encourage her to tell her story because that was my mother in law’s sister so my husband’s aunt and she lived such a full life and I mean it’s like nobody expected her to pass away that quickly. So anyway so that’s what I want. I want anyone listening to consider your story and your legacy. Who’s going to remember your stories? Or the stories of your parents or the stories of your you know your whole family history all of that. And consider how you’re going to let people know. How you’re going to memorialize that. How you’re going to leave that heritage for coming generations in your family. And then you know build the relationships with the people that you need to help you tell that story in the most effective way. Sometimes it might be a movie meal. Who knows.

Eric: Yeah that’s true. You never know, if your story is that interesting. That would be awesome of course. I’ve seen some people who think they live that movie story lifestyle. Maybe, maybe not always. Sometimes it’s glamorized but yeah.

Sandy: Yeah, yeah. Well I just heard a commercial on the way home about a movie that’s coming out this weekend with one of the guys from Silicon Valley. And that made me think of it because it is the story of his wife and her illness so that’s a great story. And he actually wrote it and they’re telling them. The story in a movie so..

Eric: That’s great. That’s wonderful to hear and I completely agree. I mean having your legacy written down is important. You know you know people people in their 20s may not be thinking about their legacy but it’s you know little by little it creeps up on you.

Sandy: Well and sometimes if you’re in your 20s or you know young millennials and you have a business, because we have, we see a lot of very successful young people today. I love working with millennials. I have a 25 year old who’s my director of projects. And she’s on my toes and she keeps me.. You know she thinks differently than I do and I love that, I love that. So yeah. So if you’re not ready to tell your, you know, your story seems a long way off. That you need to tell your legacy. Just thinking about your business. Think about the story as happening now and do something to record it. You know keep a journal. Write a blog, that would be the best thing. A lot of people turn their blogs into books so I think that’s a great great plan. Have a plan. That would be my take.

Eric: Perfectly said. And that brings me into you know what, do you have something for all the listeners out there today. Do you have something to leave them with?

Sandy: I do. I- so I try to always have something. And I’m.. So right now on my Website from the home page there is a gift. I have a gift for anyone that signs up for it. And it’s called PR tips and ideas. So I don’t know if you’re familiar maybe, I don’t know Eric if you’re familiar with that there are special days all month long. And so a lot of them give you an opportunity to market your company, or your story, or your business, or your event, or anything that’s going on. So of course one of the most famous ones coming up is the Fourth of July coming up this weekend. So if your business has anything to do with freedom, with patriotism, with independence, or anything like that then that’s a good time to market your book or your company.

Sandy: And I know. So one of the things that I do for Michelle every June. Michelle Scism, my business coach, lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana. And you know we’re on the coast here where we get lots of hurricanes. So I saw a headline early in June that said you know Texas, Louisiana be prepared for hurricane season this year looks like it’s going to be you know now we know the media they want to hype it up and everything that you know. So what we did was write a press release for her about you know how do you prepare for hurricanes in your business. So we know that you know if we’re expecting hurricane you know about boarding up the windows, we know about stocking up, all that.

Sandy: What do you do about your business? How do you do it. How do you avoid, or how do you not avoid that. You can’t avoid them. How do you prepare for them. How are you ready for them. And so we sent that press release out in June and that’s one of the things I’ve found out that I’m really quite good at is you know matching the dots, connecting the dots. So I saw that headline and I’m like oh my gosh. And that’s Michelle she helps us prepare for those hurricanes that are coming. And sometimes the season is, you know, harder than others. So yeah. So that’s some of the things I do. And so that book is absolutely free right now. You can go and get it, I just get a first name and e-mail address and you will see month by month days that you can use for your promotion.

Sandy: June was a bridal month. You know July’s Fourth of July. August has got another main focus. But every day during I mean there’s like Love Your Pet Day and there’s all kinds of so whatever business here in whatever book you’ve written about you will find a day to match it. And I plan a lot of my Amazon book launches around that. What was, for Father’s Day we had two fathers who wrote books for their children and we launched their books on Father’s Day weekend. So it’s just a great tool. And I put that together and I updated every year so it’s absolutely free. It’s right now for the months, for the year 2017 and we’ll be coming out with a 2018 version in the blog.

Eric: Perfect. Thank you so much Sandy for that and thank you very much for being on Digital Chatter!

Sandy: And if anyone wants to talk to me about their heritage I would love to hear from them. Just if you have a story and you want to share it with me or you want to find out is this story good, would that make a good book or whatever, Just send me an e-mail and I will set some time to have a conversation.

Eric: Perfect. Thanks so much Sandy.

Sandy: Thank you Eric.