Zoe McKey, Amazon’s Number 1 Selling Self-help Author, offers Authoring Tips
Kiruba: Hello and welcome to a special edition of the First Book Podcast, where we get to listen to Amazon’s number one selling self-help author Zoe McKey. But first, what is this first book podcast? It is the only podcast show that is targeted at aspiring authors. This is where we get to listen to global best-selling authors tell us how they cracked their book and they let us in on secrets and techniques to help you realise your dream of finishing your book. This podcast is generously supported by Notion Press, one of the fastest growing publishing companies with global aspirations. They help authors with publishing, book printing and distribution in over a 100 companies. Zoe McKey is the author of seven books and the eighth book is scheduled for launch at the time of recording this podcast. Like I said, earlier, she has been Amazon.com’s number one bestselling self-help author. She is a communications coach but teaches interpersonal and social skills internationally and spends her time between Romania and the United States. Let’s listen to Zoe McKey.
Kiruba: Zoe, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the first book podcast. Thank you so much for joining it.
Zoe: Oh, I owe the pleasure for inviting me. It’s a great honour to share my experience to the people of India and everybody who listens to this podcast.
Kiruba: Excellent! So, you’re currently in San Francisco as you are speaking now; is that right?
Zoe: Yes, I have theÂ privilegeÂ to be here right now. I’m very happy about it. It’s an amazing city.
Kiruba: That’s right. So, you’ve authored quite a few books and right now, as I’m speaking, I’m on your Amazon page and I see at least about 6 books. Is that right, Zoe?
Zoe: Well, actually I’ve published seven books until this point and I’m about to publish by my 8th book, which will come out in two weeks.
Kiruba: Wow! That’s quite close; that’s excellent. So, my first question – I’m sure this is the question on many of the listeners’ mind – is that how did you get your first book out? And what was the first book?
Zoe: Well, my first book is a little bit of a summary of all the experiences I gathered in my life to that point that I actually wrote the book. What motivated me the most in writing it – well, many things simultaneously, to be honest; personal reasons on one hand and on the other hand, something more. So, beyond personal reasons, which was more like the genuine feeling to help people. Like I have most journal entries and I was doing two jobs simultaneously, which was very, very tiring for me. So, I was already thinking about moving to the next level, to doing something with all the experience that I gathered in my life so far and to share it with multiple people. I was actually working in a small company…uh…where I was a communications coach and also at the same time, I was a listener. So, all the people I coached I also listened to them. I got familiar with their problems, I gathered a lot of experience in my life, in other fields too, not just my job and I felt that I have a calling for this. So, I think, on the other hand, that there are never enough people with a positive attitude, who can step on a greater stage and share empowering thoughts for the others. So, I was like, why not? I mean, I have nothing to lose to put together a book. So, I just felt that I would be at that point in a month or two months in my life, with or without writing the book, where I will be. So, it makes no difference if I write it, actually or not. And then, I just got an opportunity, where I got familiar with Amazon and I could publish it and I was like, “Sure, Let’s go for it.”
Kiruba: Got it. And what’s the title of your first book?
Zoe: Unbreakable Confidence. [smiles]
Kiruba: Got it. Is it because you already had the habit of journaling daily, like writing your own diary on an everyday basis, was that the one that helped you publish Unbreakable Confidence?
Zoe: It helped a lot because I did not have to mismatch too much with the information. I mostly knew what the book will be about and mostly knew where to position it, what’s the market for it, which is also very important, like what’s the purpose of the book, especially, nonfiction. If you write a nonfiction, you always need to have a purpose like what will you help people with, what are the pinpoints of the people you write for, who is your target audience, and I knew that for me, there are those people who have trouble with communication, they have trouble with self-esteem,uh, it was pretty easy actually to put together the book in this regard like in the regard of just writing it information wise. But I had more challenges with, uh, it was that I was not a native English speaker, so, I had big language gap and never published anything before online. So, I had to overcome this personal fear limiting belief that I won’t be able to actually put together a book in English for an English market.
Kiruba: So, how did you overcome that fear?
Zoe: I hired a native speaker-editor. It was so simple. For all the people who are not native English speakers, there’s no reason for them to not write a book for an English market, for example, the US market is a very competitive one; it’s a very good place to start at, I think, Amazon. Even though they don’t even speak English, you just write your book in your native language, you get a translator, then you get an editor, or if you’re lucky enough, the translator and the editor is the same person and you just do it. So, there are so many excuses that can pop up in people’s minds because I had them, too, which can deter them from writing a boo. But you have to overcome these excuses because you will Â not simply just go forward and you will regret at the end of your life that you might have had this chance but you didn’t take it.
Kiruba: Absolutely. Absolutely said! In fact, this is probably the biggest takeaway because a lot of people who try writing, even the simplest of obstacles come their way; for example, many people fear that they are not very good at writing and hence they cannot be an author. They all fear that what if people laugh at them? What if people one star reviews on Amazon; you know, all these things kind of keep people away and I think your point where you don’t have to worry about English; after all, English is just a language, right? It’s not knowledge. So, if you can just put your knowledge in your native language, you can always professionals to help translate or edit. I think it’s a brilliant point, Zoe.
Zoe: Yes, I think there is always a way. There is no impossible. Just be bold, who are not daring to do it. By the way, you mentioned about one star reviews on Amazon; actually, for me, they are sometimes very instructive, like, of course, if I get one star reviews on Amazon like very bad, boring, that is not helpful, that is not constructive; but if somebody has a good argument like why he or she didn’t find good points in my book or what was offending or evenÂ insensitiveÂ because of course I don’t know all the things in the world. So, I might hit some weak points of people like I got a review once from a religious person that I used the name of a godÂ recklesslyÂ and first I was, of course, very annoyed by it like how dare he could be writing me this; but then I was thinking that maybe for those people, for whom this has a meaning more than for me, it might be offensive. My point is not to offend people. So, since then I tried to not put so many religious aspects or not even oh my god in my book because I feel that I might just simply offend them. It’s not my point and if I can pay attention on that then why not. Sometimes, one star reviews can be instructive actually. So, if we try to not approach everything what is negative in a negative way but try to take out the lessons from it, it’s already a plus, which can give you more in future.
Kiruba: Good point, Zoe. Now, after you published your first book, obviously, you must have seen some kinds of benefits, which are what must have motivated you to go ahead and author the rest of the books that you did. So, what are some of the benefits that you’ve seen from your books.
Zoe: Ummm, well, it changed my life. I mean, after publishing my first book, publishing at Amazon, it’s like technically no investment. So, you can publish a book on Amazon if you are good enough in English for $0, literally. I was taking a lot of trouble to learn every aspect of publishing a book – from designing covers to editing the structure of my own book; so that took Â me a lot of time but at the end, it was a good skill to have because technically, I could reduce the cost in the beginning and okay, the editor costs some money but if somebody doesn’t need even an editor, then it can be like no-brainer’s thing to do. Then, when I saw that there’s actually potential in it and people liked my writing, of course, I was very motivated to write another book because I wrote something called Unbreakable Confidence, which covered the small field of the confidence area but it was not everything. So, I was thinking that what if maybe the person who reads my book doesn’t have that specific problem I discussed in that book? Another angle from the same confidence problem, so I wrote Build a Bridge on how to be persistent and how to go on in life, which is a bit more different than talking generally about fear of guilt or fear of judgement. So, yeah, I wrote my next book and then it just became somehow massive that I had new ideas which I couldn’t cover in a 100-page book. So, they came in, came in, came in! Yes, my life changed. I could leave all my two jobs and I am now an entrepreneur – I review the books and I do private coaching. So, I don’t have to wake up at eight anymore and I am the master of my own time. So, I think if you put an effort in it, it can get you a very trouble-free life.
Kiruba: I love it – master of your own time. I mean look at the… I mean…and I love the attitude with which you said. I mean, isn’t that so liberating, Zoe? For you?
Zoe: Yes, it is absolutely gorgeous. But also, I feel that now I am doing it almost for a year. In the beginning, when I just left my two jobs, I was very confused on what to do with so much freedom which I got. [Laughs] Sounds a bit hypocritical but trust me, it is very challenging to wake yourself up at 9’o clock, even though you know you don’t have to wake up at 9’o clock. But if you don’t wake up at 9’o clock and if you don’t start writing – you don’t start doing your research -, you will end up doing nothing at the day and at the end of the month, you will behind your schedule. And if you are behind your schedule for a long time, it won’t bring you money. So, when you’re the master of your own time and life, it means that literally there’s nothing else there. Just you and your will power, whether or not you have it; and the more will power you have, the further you will go.
Kiruba: You’re right, you’re right! It’s beautifully, you know, well positioned for me to ask the next question, which is how is your daily routine? You know! So, you’ve authored a book called Daily Routine makeover and incidentally, I just purchased your book now, Zoe – as we were speaking. Tell us about your daily writing routine and what others can learn from your habit.
Zoe: Okay. Briefly about Daily Routine Makeover, it was, like again, a personal experience I felt just like I told you, I wasÂ procrastinatingÂ a lot – like, a lot in the beginning. I was like, “Okay, I have time for that. I can just do that.” Actually, when I had two books in the market, I was more successful than when I had four books in the market. And I was surprised like, “Wow, what happened here!” What I saw was that I had lost interest in a few days because I started being very confident and comfortable in that situation. I reached a new comfort zone and I had to kick out myself from there. That’s when I started writing procastrination book about daily routines, how to change them, and how to stay on the target. As I wrote this book, IÂ simultaneouslyÂ developed a new system in my life like I have actually many, many plans. I have a big year plan like I have all my wardrobe exposed on what I have to do on a monthly basis to December, this year. So, I have everything – each and every step – I have to make until December and I have to make it done. Then I have all my computer a little posted, where I have my weekly plan. And a week’s plan is divided into daily plans and I have every day. I have four major task I have to complete, which includes writing, researching, designing, and marketing. I very strictly follow these plans. I think that if somebody wants to do something on teh business level with writing because it is providing my livelihood, I have to think more like beyond all the writing. One has to have a very clear purpose, a very clear goal, where he wants to reach in a year, or two years, or next month. So, without a plan, doing things like, I don’t know – now I do this, now I do that – you get lost in information. So, my advice is to have a very clear schedule about what you want to accomplish.
Kiruba: Got it. It also looks like you wrote this book for yourself, you know, because you felt like needed discipline, you started research and I think the book helped you as much as it is going to help others.
Zoe: Yes. Actually, it might be true but at the end of the day, people who write non-fiction, mostly, the ground-zero, where they start the book from is their own experience. What they experienced to go wrong or what they want to change about themselves also initially and also about others because at the end of the day, we have similar problems like I was working when I was younger in a car factory and I was talking there with a worker like absolutely blue-collared workers with a very limited life. But they were super-nice people. They had some problems and then I was going to conference in Malaga Lakes when I was working as a translator. Actually, I met an Indian gentleman, who was a billionaire like he was very, very rich and noticed that he had more or less the same problems as the car factory workers. So, then I realised that yes, their problems, my problems, and the billionaires’ problems are not very different. So, if I write about, let’s say, procrastination because I felt that I procrastinated, probably would cover the problems of millions of other people. And if from those millions of those other people, 1000 get to catch up on my thoughts and they accept my viewpoint and they accept it and they follow it and they defeat procrastination, it’s already a huge success I think.
Kiruba: Got it. So, Zoe, in your outlet, take us into your daily life and how does Zoe write ever day? Do you allocate times in the morning, in the evening? What is your daily schedule of writing like?
Zoe: It totally depends. So, since I am living in San Francisco, I tend to wake up pretty early because I have a yoga class every morning. I do this yoga class, I empty my mind – it’s very, very useful, it takes me to a meditation stage – and after I finish this at 10.00 am, I always go to a cafe, every time in a different cafe but I attend working cafes, because working at home makes you lazy, gives youÂ excuses. You can do so many other things at home. So, I tend to go to an office, which in my case is a cafe. From 10.00 am until I write out every thing from my head, I tend to not stop. I just have coffee after coffee and I write, write, write for three or four or one hours – what I feel comfortable with until the point I feel that I am productive and I am actually delivering a message. Then I just do other things. As I told you, I have four tasks every day and I tend to start it with writing to have the clearest mind for the writing and the rest like design, marketing, and things like that can come afterwards because they don’t need such an intense focus like as writing, in my opinion.
Kiruba: Got it. On an interesting note, Zoe, there is this app called coffeetivity, which is an app that you can download on your iOS or Android and that mimics the sound of coffee shops.
Zoe: Oh, really! I have one similar of this which is the rainy mood that comes, which makes the sound of the rain. For me, the rain is very chilling and very meditative state again and it’s very good. But I will check out this one definitely.
Kiruba: Yes, it’s called Coffeetivity. My favorite is actually jungle sounds and that are something that actually help me in concentration, you know, that deep flow. It really helps. I think that is something that is very useful for a wannabe writers. Do you recommend those?
Zoe: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t know about this but I will definitely check it. I also use my rainy moods to just disconnect and sometimes, I listen to music. When I want to do like a very big energy booster parts of my book, I put some music of the 80s like ACDC or something very crazy to take me to that mood, to be able to write about that mood. But generally, I am very chilled when I am writing.
Kiruba: Hmm. So, good to see the San Francisco sounds.
Zoe: [Laughs] Oh, yeah? I think it’s a fire station close to us and all the time, these firefighter cars are scintillating loud sounds.
Kiruba: Got it. Oh no, no need. It just adds to the ambience of the podcast. Now what are some of the challenges, you know, that inspite of writing five or seven books, I am sure you face your own challenges as a writer, as an author. What are those challenges?
Zoe: Umm, well, my number one challenge was to defeat this native, like this language gap I was talking about earlier. My other challenge is sometimes that I have to keep up like I have this schedule. Sometimes it’s not that easy you know. So, if you go the gym, you know that sometimes it’s so good to go down to the gym and just have a workout. But on the other days, you absolutely hate it. There are so many other things; just not going to the gym. This is the same with writing for me. Sometimes, you have to accept that you just simply don’t have the mood to do it and there are two parts which are offers generally to choose. One part is that they just stop and they wait for that mood to come back and to write in that mood in the zone or they just overcome this feeling of unpleasantness and they write it anyway and I tend to be of the second type because I know very well that even if I don’t have the mood, after half an hour of going very slowly with the thing, I eventually get in that mood. I get in the zone and the engine starts. So, sometimes, if you have an author’s block – it’s not an author’s block, it’s hidden procrastination is what I think. It’s like, “Yes, today maybe I want to do something else,” but no. If you’re devoted to what you want to do, you just have to stick to the plan and sometimes, it gives me challenges to overcome myself. Again, the freedom which I got like I know that it will be no concept once in short-term if I don’t do that. So, yes, this is a challenge to overcome this laziness.
Kiruba: Got it. I’m actually hearing this answer from you really makes me glad because there are many times I have procrastinated and always felt a little bad when the mood for writing doesn’t comes, sometimes, days in a row. So, I know that this is natural. Sometimes, we just have to face it and you know, these are cycles of moods and it will bounce back. So, Zoe, your eighth book is going to come out in two week’s time. Have you got a life plan? Do you have a master plan – what is called the BHAG the bhag plan, the big goal to author X number of books before you die? Do you have some kind of a goal like that?
Zoe: Umm, actually, I do! I want to be the author with the most books published in the world. Nope, that’s not true! [Laughs] In the short term – one or two years – I would like to produce as many books as possible to cover in a whole this, like same, my picture about confidence. And I would like to reach more and more people with it and I would like to have my audience – those people who can relate to live with my stuff and then I would like to take it to the next level like I would really like to meet all these people I helped with my book, personally. So, keeping smaller or bigger conferences, coaching sessions, courses even; so, let’s say I would like to be a bit more personal. Not just a face on the book’s cover and just words and somebody behind those words but actually be out there, help people, and reach out for them directly. So, this is my big plan for the future. You know Tommy Robbins jumping and cheering and making people happy. Something like that!
Kiruba: Excellent! That’s wonderful. Have you had any interesting experiences because of your book? This could be getting a huge client or somebody recognising you at an airport or some kind of an interesting experience that you’ve faced.
Zoe: Actually, I did. I did multiple. My best experiences are those everyday small experiences which I get when I get a letter from one of my readers. I am very open. In each and every one of my book, I have my email address, my personal email address, and also my website so people can contact me very easily if they want to. And they do, like, every day I get at least one email and those people contact me and tell me that my book helped me in one way or another and it’s a wonderful feeling to just get from random places of the world – messages like yes, thank you, you were helpful and it just warms my heart. It’s a very nice feeling indeed. Also, through my books, I got to know very interesting people, who I might have not been able to know if I wouldn’t have these books and success on the other hand, like I know. In my home-country, there is a famous guy, who is like sort of Tommy Robbins of our country and I just met him a few weeks ago and I was like, forgive me for five minutes but I would just stare at you. [Laughs] But the guy was super open, super nice, laid back and I just realised that he is also just the person like anybody else. Just behind this hype and fame and everything, there is just a person, a normal one, and I was so honoured to meet him and I was very, very happy. So, maybe, this is another big point I feel I realised, thanks to the books.
Kiruba: Excellent. Excellent. So, I noticed, Zoe, that almost all your books are published in Kindle, except the one book which is Build Grit. That’s the only one that I find in paperback. So, did you consciously choose to go with self-publishing on Amazon or did you at least even try to get the traditional method of publishing?
Zoe: Umm, actually, Build Grit has to have a Kindle version as well. If it doesn’t, I will have to check Amazon because they did some weird thing. Generally, I have all my books in Kindle and also on paperback on Createspace. Answering your question, no, I never contacted an actual publisher in the English field. I had a very good friend, who was already publishing books on Amazon and he helped me with this to publish books on Amazon. So, I never ever thought about any other options other than Amazon because as I told you, cost-free, easy, and without a risk – sometimes it is very good to take a risk – but in this case, it was like, “Okay, so what I publish the book and in the worst case no body will buy it?” I had no investment and I just wrote it. Recently, I got some offers from different countries to translate my books and those are publishers – like – actual publishing houses. But they always reached out to me; I never reached out to a publisher. Yes. I am fine with Amazon actually.
Kiruba: Yeah! I am a huge fan of Amazon and I think it has really opened up opportunities for a lot of writers, who otherwise would have never stood a chance with a traditional publisher, right? So, this is a beautiful way for you to test your writing, for you to really showcase your writing skills, and to prove your worth. Once you prove your worth, just like in your lines Zoe, now, other publishers are reaching out to you and the same thing will happen for other authors as well.
Zoe: Yes. Yes. I think that Amazon is the perfect way to start for an individual, who happens to be a normal, mortal being, not a superstar, who will be like financed anyway. So, for people like us, Amazon is the perfect place to start. It’s like low-risk, high possibilities and chances to be good and yes, it’s very simple. It is very straightforward to upload the book there. So, it’s not like rocket-science. It is very, very user-friendly platform, I think.
Kiruba: Got it. Now, let’s talk about marketing as well. How do you spread the word about your books?
Zoe: Um, Through my research, I found some promotion tools for the books like Robin Reads and Buck Books. There are plenty in the US, to whom you can contact. By paying a smaller amount of money, they will send out emails for their huge email list – huge meaning consists of 400,000 people. And then, these books for one day would be on their email and people can click on them. People can get to know them. So, it’s like a very cheap marketing tool in this regard. Buck Books is just $32 and it reaches to like almost 100,000 people. So, it’s a no-brainer deal for me. And in this way, I can get more sales for my book.
Kiruba: Got it. That’s a valuable piece of advice and I am going to write to you separately if you can help me out with the links to those, I will add them to the show notes of this podcast.
Zoe : Okay, sure.
Kiruba: Excellent. I think this has been wonderful. Before we wrap up, one final question, Zoe. So, what is your eighth book about?
Zoe: So, my next book will be about courage – how to realise that courage and what you need for your everyday life. Sometimes, people think that being courageous takes you…you escape all your fears and you will be in a fearless mood like I don’t know like Mel Gibson in a movie. But it’s not about that. It’s about being afraid and having the guts to put up your fears and adversities and go through, anyway. So, to against your fears, to go and reach your goals, this is through courage and this is what people, I think, have to realise. So, to be fearless doesn’t mean that to be without fear but to have the guts to do it against your fears. So, I don’t know, if I summed up it correctly, but the book actually tells you about how to overcome your limit in belief and just go forward and have the courage and be open minded and feel the chi and be actionary.
Kiruba: Excellent. When the book comes out, email me the link, Zoe and I will be happy to share it with our audience.
Zoe: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Kiruba: It’s been wonderful speaking with you. Thank you so much for taking the time out. I absolutely enjoyed this conversation.
Zoe: Thank you, Mr. Kiruba. I enjoyed it very, very much, too. Bye bye!