Writing Non-Fiction With Personal Stories with Natalie Sisson

How can you write a useful self-help book with actionable tips, but also bring it to life with personal stories? How can you use a book title to attract your target market? Natalie Sisson shares her experience in writing her latest non-fiction book.

In the intro, 94% of the world’s internet users are not in the USA — what does that mean for your international author business? [The New Publishing Standard]; Marketing tips for driving sales internationally [BookBub]; Facebook brings podcasts onto their platform [The Verge]; plus I answer some questions about the NFT for authors episode, and Tim Berners-Lee’s NFT [The Verge].


Today’s show is sponsored by Draft2Digital, where you can get free ebook formatting, free distribution to multiple stores, library distribution, and a host of other benefits. Get your free Author Marketing Guide at www.draft2digital.com/penn

Natalie Sisson is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and host of the Untapped Podcast. Her books include The Suitcase Entrepreneur, The Freedom Plan, and her latest is Suck It Up Princess.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.

Show Notes

  • How to know what medium an idea is suited for — book or course
  • Knowing what to share (and what to leave out) in memoir
  • The balance between sucking it up and practicing self-care
  • How to spot burn-out
  • The importance of taking time off and how to plan for that as an entrepreneur
  • Pivoting to focus on a specific type of client or customer — and how book titles can help
  • Lessons learned from crowdfunding a book’s publication

You can find Natalie Sisson at NatalieSisson.com and on Twitter @nataliesisson

Transcript of Interview with Natalie Sisson 

Joanna: Natalie Sisson is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and host of the ‘Untapped Podcast.’ Her books include The Suitcase Entrepreneur, The Freedom Plan, and her latest is Suck It Up Princess. Welcome back to the show, Natalie.

Natalie: Thanks. I love the way you were grinning when you said the last one. I’m glad it brings a smile to your face.

Joanna: Oh, it does. Absolutely. And we’re going to talk about the book very soon. You were on the show in episode 495. Not too long ago. And we talked about your journey. So we’re just going to dive straight in today.

I wanted to ask a question that comes up a lot, which is people write their non-fiction book and then they’re like, ‘Never again.’ Why did you decide to write another nonfiction book, when, let’s face it, you have other products and courses are more profitable.

How did you know it was the right time to write another book and that this topic was something you wanted to explore?

Natalie: First of all, it’s news to me that people do say that. I’d love to know if there’s some more research behind people who write non-fiction versus fiction and then put off the writing process.

I wouldn’t even say it was necessarily the right time, but I think part of it was a story sometimes just comes out of you or a book idea comes to you and you just feel like it needs to be written.

As an upholder and somebody who likes deadlines and timelines, I really like pushing myself to get things creatively done. I know you turn around books incredibly fast, but I think I’m not too far behind you in there. And then when I have an idea, I really want to take action on it.

This one was a little bit different because the circumstances were, over in Australia, my partner’s father was dying. I was at the hospital. I decided to crowdfund for the book because I almost needed a distraction and I’d been thinking about this idea since January.

So we’re talking about, this is in March when I blurted out, ‘Suck it up, princess,’ to myself in a park when I was in a funk and a friend said, ‘You should write a book about that. It’s a great title.’ And I couldn’t let that rest.

And I was like, ‘It is a great title, but how do you reverse engineer and write a book about something you just came up with the title for?’ So it was maybe good timing, I think, and not obviously a very easy time to get a book written. Yes, lockdown helps, but also just we know what was happening in the world at that time.

I had been wanting to write another book since The Freedom Plan and actually, my partner had also said, ‘Hey, aren’t you writing another book? You did talk about it for the last year or so.’ So whenever somebody issues that challenge to me as well, I think it was a combination of all those factors coming together that I just decided, ‘Well, there’s no better time than now.’

Joanna: Right. And then more specifically on the why a book and not another product because we both know you can make more money by doing a course. You could have done more like a self-help course. I’m not sure the title would have worked for a course, but it is motivational. You could have done a summit, you could have done lots of different things.

How do you know when an idea is a book as opposed to a different product?

Natalie: I love that question because you’re right, all of those things are more profitable, but I don’t necessarily know that this book was very strategic. My other two books, courses came out of them very successfully.

With this one, I haven’t got a plan to do a course, but it will fit some of my philosophies and experiences on life. I feel like I’ve always wanted to write more of a self-help style book just because they have been instrumental in setting up my mindset. And so much of what I talk about in this book has actually come from when I read books back in my teens that then influenced me to go on and do some of the cool and crazy stuff that I’ve done.

So there wasn’t actually a lot of strategy behind this, and yes, there were far more profitable things to do, but I don’t think that should be the key to writing a book unless you’re making a business of it.

Maybe that there was some lack of judgment in that, but I also just like doing things for the enjoyment of them and the challenge of them. And also, I got to talk about my courses and my memberships within the book in a way that was really natural because quite a few of the examples or stories I tell fit around that.

So in many ways, I still think it will be a book that drives business and new leads even if that wasn’t my intention with it.

Joanna: I think that’s exactly right. I wanted to hear you say that because your other books were more strategic and were more real business-focused while I felt this one was a lot more emotional.

It had aspects of memoir in it as well as more philosophical things and self-help tips. But as you say, this tangential idea, you’re sharing yourself and your journey and it’s attraction marketing. People who like it resonate with you and then, as you say, may go on to buy other products.

So I want to encourage people listening; the book doesn’t have to be strategically linked to a course.

Natalie: Exactly. There’s time for strategic moves and there’s times to just do things for pleasure, creativeness, innovation and you get to feed both of those things with a book, depending on which way you go.

Joanna: I wondered about how your writing process has changed because I know the listeners are all writers too, and the first book can be, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ Second book, you’re like, ‘Okay. I have more of a clue.’ But this was a different type of book as I said.

How has your writing process changed and any tips for non-fiction writers?

Natalie: I’ll tell you one thing that hasn’t changed is not necessarily having the whole structure of the book planned out and actually being more free flow with it.

With The Suitcase Entrepreneur, I’d obviously been talking about a lot of those themes and experiences for many years because I’d been living and breathing it. And I had got a three-part framework to how I approached it, but I did just write the chapters as they came to me and I picked the ones that felt better to be writing at the time, and then it came together.

The Freedom Plan was based off The Suitcase Entrepreneur and my course, so that was much more structured when this one, I just kind of let rip, which was actually super fun and also really fascinating because I ended up taking quite a few chapters out that I had put in and then I was just like, ‘This isn’t necessarily adding to the book,’ but it was really cathartic for me to write.

And as I went, I also realized that it ended up being in five different sections or five different themes. When I started, it was more the three. I’m a big fan of three. People can remember three.

Because this felt more like, as you said, a personal memoir, very honest, very personal and transparent book plus some self-help and experience and coaching in it. I just free flowed and wrote the chapters that I think were so prominent in my mind that I get asked about a lot or that were really formative experiences in my own life, and then I was able to organize it and arrange it. So that was quite a good lesson and a different way of writing a book.

I still wrote it in a similar timeframe, around three months, but that’s partly also because of lockdown and just because I set myself these big deadlines. And I will say that when it first went to the editor, and I think we might have discussed this, I didn’t actually proofread it. I just wanted to get it over to them.

By that time it was like right on the deadline and they actually came back to me, Joanna, and said, ‘Hmm. Natalie, we really like how this book is going, but we actually think it needs developmental edits.’ I actually had to google developmental editors and go, ‘Ooh. That’s not so good.’

That’s like seriously hacking a book because it’s not come together well enough. And I said, ‘Look, can I just have it back for two weeks? Let me actually reread it. Let me proof it.’ I know that sounds nuts to people who are much more logical about this, but I tend to be like, what if it came out, even though I’d killed some stuff, is what is coming out.

I did reread it and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, this needs serious editing and I can trim this and make that much clearer and pull these chapters out and reorder.’ And it went back to them and they’re like, ‘Oh, thank goodness. We can work with this.’

So that was a good learning lesson, right? Actually, it really made me sit back and go, ‘Hang on, are you a writer or are you somebody who just bashes out content quite prolifically?’ Let’s maybe come back to being a writer and taking more.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have care in it, but I think because it was so deeply personal, I almost didn’t want to reread it, whereas the other two books were very easy to reread because I taught and coached and this was very much more about my life. So I had to do some editing on myself.

Joanna: This is a brilliant lesson learned, by the way. It totally shows the difficulty of memoir because you were emotionally connected to the material, a lot of the material, obviously, is personal. And so you were like, ‘I’m done, that’s me, it’s gone.’ And you sent it out.

This is why one of the biggest recommendations with this kind of material is to put it in the drawer and to wait. And that’s what happened. By the time it came back to it, you had some separation and you could look at it with new eyes, but yeah, there’s a tip to people definitely with emotional material that you’re connected to, it has to go away from you so that you can look at it with these more editorial eyes, right?

Natalie: Yeah. I love that. Had I known that or listened to you more, I probably would have done that, but it happened anyway, so that was good.

Joanna: You’ll know for the future. We’ve known each other from afar online for like a decade or something. When The Suitcase Entrepreneur came out, I see a lot of entrepreneurs, obviously, I know a lot of online entrepreneurs who will write one book and that will be their book that goes with their brand or whatever.

And then I feel like some people get the bug for writing and other people don’t. What I see with you with this book is a real development and quite a shift, I think, in your style of writing and your ability to access a lot more of your history and emotional stuff. And I think you’re in. I don’t think this will be the last book.

Natalie: Oh, thank you. I think you’re right. I’m really curious about different formats and different genres and actually really fulfilling this as something I do more of. So there’s definitely more books in me.

I don’t think I can quite get to 30, but I’m really keen to just produce a book every couple of years and make it really intentional and about topics that I’m learning, or teaching, or curious about.

Joanna: On the emotional side, because I know how hard it is, were there any things holding you back? Was there any resistance to sharing? You mentioned some of the chapters you took out. Was that because they were too emotional, too raw, or because you felt they really didn’t serve this particular topic?

Was there any resistance to sharing such personal stories?

Natalie: I left the really raw ones in there, which was a big deal, but no, they just weren’t good enough, actually. The story maybe wasn’t that exciting or it just didn’t need to go in there.

Actually, I will say one that I did pull out was when I got a job just a couple of years ago because there was something still there that maybe I hadn’t processed about why did I do that after in between 10 or 12 years of entrepreneurship?

And also, I realized it was probably quite a new story to me and maybe I wanted to let it sit for a bit, whereas a lot of the other stories have happened over the past 10, 15, 20 years. And then a couple of the other ones just didn’t feel like they really added to the value of the book or that I’d maybe repeated a topic and this was a different format of the same topic. So I just chose the better chapter.

But other than that, I really did leave it all on the line, as you said. It is a very personal book and I know a couple of friends who are like, ‘Oh, Natalie, I didn’t know that about you,’ which is fun, right? And it’s cool to hear because it means that I didn’t leave anything out.

Joanna: Yes. It is difficult to share these things, but I think so often is very valuable for us and also for other people.

Let’s get into some of the topics. The phrase ‘suck it up,’ it implies tough love, just get on with it anyway even though I’m feeling all these feelings. But this is difficult, right?

We’re still in a pandemic as we record this. I still can’t come over to New Zealand because of all the travel restrictions. I feel like the pandemic has been a time where we have had to have this balance of I have to stay in my area, but you’re going to suck it up because we’re in a pandemic.

On the other hand, you need to have self-care. And this is true for the writing journey, the emotional journey, everything.

How do we balance the ‘suck it up, tough love’ with self-care in our lives?

Natalie: I’m so glad you ask because for most people who know me, ‘Suck It Up Princess’ isn’t the kind of thing that I say to them. I am a tough love but in a really gentle kind of way coach. I usually use that more on myself.

I think the interesting thing about this, as I figured, the title would probably polarize some people. Some people might be offended, some people might be like, ‘Oh, yeah,’ which is different for me as well because normally I’m not about offending people, but I think there are times you need to take a stance in your life.

It’s definitely a term that’s used more down under and then I would say over in the U.K. as well, but for other countries, it’s not quite as common. But the irony is that there’s so much about self-compassion in this book and about caring for yourself and knowing when to have tough love and exercise it on yourself and knowing when to take a break to be kind to yourself, to look after yourself, to love on yourself.

That’s the irony, but there’s so much more in this book. It’s actually more a motivational pep talk for loving on you. I think it’s really important to balance.

One thing that is interesting is that when I said that phrase to myself and then I was actually talking to somebody on my podcast who’s a psychologist and they said, ‘You know what? I really love this term’ because I have it as a mantra now.

They said, ‘For all the clients that we see, we’re obviously always trying to access more from a compassionate point of view,’ he said, ‘but there are so many times where this tough love actually would snap them out of whatever they were in within reason and actually be very compelling advice for them.’

So that was really useful to hear because it actually has its place. Sometimes to just snap yourself out of the doldrums, the fears, the imposter syndrome, all those things that we experience and come back to just taking a small, definitive action that will allow you to move on. And that’s what that phrase allows you to do.

It’s really interesting to find that balance, but it’s worked well for me over the years and I see it in other people when they do it as well. It’s calling yourself out, it’s taking personal responsibility for where you might be complaining, or negative, or throwing a whole bunch of reasons as to why you can’t do anything.

We all know we’re allowed to do that, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. I like it as a mantra for just calling yourself on your own BS and making the most of life. And that’s really important for me to instill in others just when I see so much potential in them and I see them not fulfilling it.

Joanna: It definitely implies ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ type of thing.

With writing a book, people always say how you must be over all the self-doubt and the fear of failure and fear of judgment. I’m like, ‘No. It still happens every single time, but I understand that it happens every time and I guess I just suck it up and I create anyway.’

And as you said, it’s taking that small action or big action or whatever you need to do even though you feel like maybe you can’t do it.

Sure, I might fail, I probably will, but if I don’t do something, then I’m just stuck where I am.

Natalie: And also if you don’t do anything, then you’ve also failed. Isn’t that ironic? If you don’t do anything and you never take a leap and you never step out of your comfort zone and you just rest on your laurels and you don’t do anything, in many ways, you’ve also failed but you haven’t even given yourself the chance to try.

Joanna: I guess one of the problems is that if we take this too far we get to burnout. You do have a chapter on burnout is not a badge of honor. And I think this is so important.

Many writers suffer burnout on a hamster wheel of content production.

You see this in the online space as well. And you talk in the book about having it on book tour for one of the other books.

What does burnout feel like? How do we try and spot it before it happens and deal with it?

Natalie: I’m really glad I put this chapter in because I was really surprised when I did get mild burnout and luckily only mild burnout on my first book, The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

We were talking about before we hit record. I was so into the book and marketing it and doing everything I could to get it out there. I was so excited, first book, all those things, and I just didn’t stop. I didn’t have this off-switch and I didn’t realize that I hadn’t turned the switch off until I was in Vancouver on the last leg of my tour.

Some friends were like, ‘Nat, are you sleeping? When did you get a break? Because you just seem really on. And while that’s great, you must be exhausted.’ And I remember going, ‘I actually can’t switch off,’ which was so unlike me.

I was doing 11 or 12-hour days even though I was enjoying it. I just wasn’t looking after myself as much as I normally do. I wasn’t sleeping great. And they were actually the people who said, ‘You could be heading for burnout.’ And I think I even remember going, ‘What is that?’

How it felt at the time, and this is the interesting thing is it felt like I was superwoman, like there was nothing that I couldn’t do and I was on fire. That’s a great feeling for a while, but it’s not sustainable. It often means that you’re on the edge of about topple over the crevasse and just have a crash landing.

For me, I was lucky that they caught it and then I was aware of it to be able to pull back to take more rest, to take time out, to exercise, to sleep better, to meditate, to switch my brain off because people who have had it severely have actually got a lifetime impairment.

It can lead to adrenal fatigue, it can lead to focus problems. It can lead to actually permanent loss of ability to do things, which is really scary when you have it really badly.

I wish more people would talk about it because you can’t right that. There’s not a lot that people can do apart from resting and continuing to take it easy and operate on a 50% to 60% capacity.

So I think it’s important that that chapter made it in. And as I said, I think I had a mild form of it, but entrepreneurs, in particular, and writers, it’s really common for us to get it because we are the ones driving ourselves, we are the ones pushing our own schedules, and we need to learn how to balance that and make sure that we have time out.

And then that time out is when you have your best creativity often. So that’s, again, the double-edged sword. It’s actually a really great idea to take time off from stuff because you’ll probably write better and be more creative.

Joanna: I think the time off and even weekends, I know I struggle with…especially working from home, and now everybody has this. Everyone has had this in the pandemic year is trying to balance working from home with the rest of your life in your house and obviously, some people aren’t even lucky enough to have their own room for their work and they’re working in home spaces.

And so I think a lot of people are coming to this. And it’s so funny now, I know it’s not been the same in New Zealand, but here in the U.K., we’re starting to see articles about people really wanting to return to the office because actually, the commute between home and an office is a sort of mini-break between your home life and your work, and people have missed that.

They’ve shown that people have worked an extra one or two hours a day throughout the whole pandemic because they haven’t had to commute. So it’s really interesting, and I was reflecting on this around burnout, like it’s either it’s just the extra couple of hours a day that people think, ‘Oh, you know, I’ll just work until 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. and that’ll be fine,’ or whatever you do, but you have to schedule more time away from your desk in your life.

This is why I do really big walks because I feel like once I’ve walked at least 20K, I don’t care about anything else.

Natalie: It’s so true. And you know me for now 10-plus years, I’ve always been a proponent of The Freedom Plan. I do actually live and breathe that. I take freedom Fridays. I take quite a lot of time off.

I actually think that’s really helped me to do even more in the time that I do work. I’ve always been about attempting to balance more of that work, and life, and mindset piece. Don’t always get it right, but I think I do probably a better job of it than a lot of people I know.

I don’t subscribe to overworking and 60-hour workweeks. I look at people who are doing that and I admire it sometimes, but then other times I’m like, ‘No, you’ve got it wrong.’

Then I love seeing people who run a 10-hour week business at 6 or 7 figures and they’ve just got it dialed in and they live life fully outside of that and they love the work that they do do. So I love that there’s always examples to prove otherwise.

It’s really important that you’re intentional about how you live your life, which is something that I hope comes through in all my books. And that we do take more time to have fun and enjoy life and to really get the richer and finer things out of it.

There’s nothing wrong with loving your work and doing a lot of it, but there will be a time at which you’ll reach this point of just like, ‘Okay. I’m tired of this,’ or, ‘It’s draining,’ or, ‘It’s not as much fun anymore.’

I prefer for people not to get to that point and to continue loving their work and doing the right amount of it for them and having a life that they love.

Joanna: And then on time off, so you’re having a baby.

Natalie: I am.

Joanna: And you also obviously have your successful business. Obviously you can plan when you’re going to need this time off, but you will need some decent time off. I am also planning to take a month to 6 weeks away in 2022.

For people listening, it’s not just about having a baby, it’s also, ‘Okay. I want to have a longer period of time off. How do I set up my business so my income doesn’t fall off a cliff and so I don’t have to answer email every day or whatever?’

How are you organizing this longer period of time off?

Natalie: I love that you asked this question because ironically, that’s probably my next book because I remember saying to Josh after I’d finished this one and then we found out we were pregnant, which was really exciting. We were trying for it, but it all happened super quick.

I turned to him and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m going to have to babyproof my business.’ And he went, ‘That’s a great name for a book.’ And I was like, ‘Don’t.’ Because that’s how this one came to life.

But then I thought about it. I was like, ‘Actually, what a fantastic reason to interview awesome women entrepreneurs who are moms or expecting about what they did to actually babyproof their business. How did they plan? How did they prepare?’

And then also, how did they feel post having the baby? At which point did they go back to work and what worked for them? Because in many ways, like a book project, a baby is a really great deadline.

Joanna: A very hard deadline.

Natalie: A very hard deadline. We were literally at the midwife yesterday because we’re at 28 week-mark. So we’re into the third trimester. I had a giggle, as I said, ‘When should I really be maybe just taking some time out?’ Because I was planning to take at least three months off post having the baby because I realized that I was doing this work right up until the date.

And then I was like, ‘Well, that’s silly because the baby will come whenever it wants and I need to be prepared.’ And she said, ‘Yeah. I’d give yourself at least two weeks. Any more than that, you might be twiddling your thumbs.’ So that actually put it into perspective because that’s eight weeks. Pretty much eight weeks. And I’m like, ‘Great.’

But to answer your question, I have been steadily building up a small but mighty team for the last 12 months and it’s really been on my agenda to find great people and to slowly but surely stop being the block in my business, which we sometimes are as a CEO and hand things over to them and get them to a place where they feel really confident with running my business.

I’ve just recently hired my own virtual assistant. I do have one, but mainly she focuses on WordPress and landing pages and all those things, but this one will purely be dealing with my email, and support email, and calendar, and really getting her comfortable with essentially being me while I’m not there.

I’m fortunate that I’ve built a business where recurring income as part of my membership is great and important. One of my big focuses for this next eight weeks is to really dial in a few of my funnels so that they are bringing in revenue on autopilot.

In many ways, it’s forced me to look at my business and go, ‘You do way too much of the things that you actually now need to automate or you’re too involved in some of your own projects and you need to step out and actually start bringing other people in.’

For example, with my 10K Club, I’m looking at hiring some resident coaches to have on board and actually replace me during the three months that I plan to definitely be completely off and like, I mean completely offline.

But then I was like, ‘This is actually a really good practice because I should have probably been bringing these people in anyway because I don’t always want to be the face of it and I don’t always want to be the go-to person. As much as I like to be, that’s not going to allow me to scale.

So it’s interesting, especially with this, that I think it’s forced me to think about my business without me and that allows for a lot of creativity and just some good creative brainstorming with my team about how to do that. I haven’t got it all set yet, but I’m excited. We’re working towards it in a really good way.

And there’s also a part of me that says like, ‘You know what? If stuff happens, it happens.’ And maybe that’s partly having a baby. I’ve taken on a much more relaxed approach.

I’m excited about this new chapter. And if I don’t have the same business coming out the other side of it or if I don’t even maybe want this business out the other side, I don’t know, I’ve got options, which I feel quite grateful to have.

Joanna: I think that’s really good. And as you say, you don’t know what you’re going to want after this period. I’m not having a baby, but I am walking a really long pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, in 2022 and I feel like I could have the same feeling. I could have the same feeling that I want to change things.That also happens when you do these really long walks.

I love how you’ve pivoted your brand over the years.

Back in the day you were a single, child-free, suitcase entrepreneur and now you’re settled down in New Zealand with your family. I think that’s important too, we talked about that, about pivoting your brand in our last interview, but I do want to move more into the publishing side.

In terms of book titles, I want to come back to the book title. You mentioned that it might be a polarizing title, but it’s also gender-specific.

So the word princess is gender-specific. Gender is a difficult topic and the subtitle also mentions heroine, I think. Obviously, the title itself is what you said to yourself, but is this a direction for your business? Are you mainly aiming at women or how are you moving in that direction?

Natalie: It really is a direction for my business and quite a bold one that I decided to take at the beginning of last year. I’ve been talking about focusing more on women for so long. And interestingly, my very first blog and domain was womansworld.com and I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t stick with that theme, but I think I’ve always been very inclusive.

If I’m helping people start and run their business from anywhere and traveling the world, it didn’t feel often fair to exclude guys from that. So I really loved having an inclusive audience during that time.

But it was early last year that I decided, ‘You know what? I am so passionate about helping women and when women help other women, everybody benefits.’ So it feels to me like placing my emphasis and my coaching time and my smarts on women and helping them to grow and make more money ultimately has a ripple effect on everybody, not just women.

This book is pretty much a statement piece to the fact that this is my audience going forward. I still have lots of men in my community, but I’m well aware now that when we write emails, we’re talking about, ‘Hey, lady, and, ‘Hey, woman,’ and using all those terms.

I don’t get many emails from the guys going, ‘Hey, what about me?’ But they’ll still reply and say stuff and they’ll go, ‘This is great.’ This book is definitely written for anyone, but it does have a very strong preference to women stepping up to charge what they’re worth, to claim romance to really value themselves, to be more compassionate to themselves because I think it’s something that we don’t always do that well. It’s definitely a testament to my direction of wanting to help women specifically.

Joanna: That’s great then. You said originally it was not a strategic book, but this is a strategic book then. And I would actually encourage people to use things like book titles to make it clear who you want in your community and who your business is for and who the book is for.

There’s a brand of, I think they’re vegan cookbooks here. They’re called ‘Thug Kitchen.’ Have you seen this? And I’m like, ‘Thug Kitchen.’ It’s two guys doing vegan chefery. And obviously, it’s a very masculine title and the word thug is pretty gendered.

I saw it and I was like, ‘That is such great branding. They’re very clear who they’re aiming for.’ And this is similar. We’re in a very complicated gender world right now, but I don’t want people to be afraid of this, of making it clear. I think that’s important too.

You want to serve a certain community and you’ve made that clear.

Natalie: Yes. And it’s so funny how long it’s taken me to do that because my audience has always been 60% to 70% women anyway, but making a stance and standing for it is really important and something, I think, as you get older, you’re much more comfortable doing because you get into your zone of who do you want to help and what impact do you want to make?

It’s just been calling to me for so long and I don’t know why I’d been avoiding it. This is strategic in that respect that it’s me coming out, almost saying, ‘This is who I support and this is who I want to help because I know it helps everyone else.’

Joanna: Coming to the publishing side, you mentioned you crowdfunded the book, which I don’t think you’ve done before because you’ve had traditional publishing, you’ve done self-publishing before and crowdfunding is a little bit different. We certainly emailed over the publishing time as well.

What were the lessons that you learned from this publication experience?

Natalie: A little-known fact, I’ve actually crowdfunded all three books. So the very first one I did through Kickstarter back when Kickstarter was good for crowdfunding books.

The second I did through Publishizer, which is specifically for authors who want to publish, and this time I did it through Publishizer again because they’ve changed their model a little.

I do love crowdfunding because I think what it does is it says, ‘Hey, this is a book that I’d like to write. Do you think it’s worthy of being written?‘ If you’ve got crickets or nobody really supported it, I think it sends a pretty clear message that you’re not writing a book that should be written.

So I really love the crowdfunding aspect and also because one, it provides you with a really good incentive to get very clear on your book is for, all the things that you put in a book proposal.

Who is this for? Why are they going to benefit from it? What other competitors are in this space? How are you going to market this? What’s your plan? And you do that way early on before you’ve even gotten into writing the book often.

Then you’ll also receive upfront pre-orders from people who are like, ‘I can’t wait for this book.’ And then thirdly, you have a massive timeline that you now have to meet because you’ve put it out publicly and people have already paid for it and you’ve said, ‘And this book will be in your hands by X date.’

So I personally like it because it’s massive accountability. And it gets me clear on my marketing channel and then you have these wonderful people who’ve pre-ordered and supported who are now coming along with you on the journey, which is just way more fun. And you’ve got money to spend.

I often end up funding my books anyway, but you’ve got investment from people to spend on editing, and publishing, and marketing, and all those things.

So I’m a big fan of it. I probably won’t crowdfund the next book. But as you just pointed out with The Suitcase Entrepreneur, I self-published that, and then it got picked up by a big-name publisher four years after it was written when I was actually pitching The Freedom Plan through an agent. So that was a really cool experience.

The Freedom Plan, as you mentioned, was indie-published or went with a hybrid publisher on, so the cost of the book didn’t cost me anything and they took a percentage of the profits and did a lot of the editing and proofing and distribution. And that’s when I actually went back to self-publishing because I just love the freedom that comes with it. You’re fully responsible for your book and you’re also fully in charge of the outcomes of it.

You can choose your creative design, you can choose how it gets to be written, you can choose everything that gets to be in it, the pricing, all those things. And I just wanted to come back and see how much it had changed since 2013 when I did it and actually come back to the process.

Successful Self Publishing Wide

You were immensely helpful during this time, but it almost felt like relearning this thing that I thought I had nailed back in 2013 and seeing how different it was now. And it was definitely actually easier, I think, to get the book out in the quality that I wanted it to be in, which was great.

Joanna: I’m glad you said that. Things change all the time but there are better tools, better distribution methods emerging for everything. I think self-publishing has changed a lot and it’s only getting better, to be honest. I think by the time you do the next book, we’re going to have even more options and some very exciting things happening.

Where can people find you and everything you do online?

Natalie: I would love for them to come visit nataliesisson.com. I’m pretty much Natalie Sisson all over the interwebs.

I would love for people to listen to my podcast, the Untapped Podcast, which you’ve been on. It very much ties into the book because it’s all about tapping into your potential and getting paid to be you.

And, of course, Suck It Up Princess is on all good online distribution centers and in some bookstores, which is pretty exciting, thanks to IngramSpark. So we’d love for people to check it out.

Joanna: Thanks so much, Natalie. That was great.

Natalie: It was so much fun. Thank you.

The post Writing Non-Fiction With Personal Stories with Natalie Sisson first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • June 20, 2021