“Write your piece. Find your peace.” ~ Jill Ebstein
Meet fellow indie author Jill Ebstein and discover what marketing strategies help her sell books!
(00:25): Getting to Know Jill Ebstein: An Indie Author's Journey
(00:42): Exploring Extraordinary Stories: A Conversation with Jill Ebstein
(04:03): "Finding Solace Through Words: Discovering the Healing Power of Writing"
(05:16): The Realities of Writing a First Novel
(05:18): "The Challenge of Writing: Balancing Attention Spans and Complex Topics"
(06:31): Unveiling the Intended Audience and Key Takeaways of this Book
(06:35): "Building Social Muscle: A Guide for Adults and Teens to Enhance Connections and Foster Growth"
(08:16): Unlocking the Power of Short Reads for Marketing Success
(08:20): "The Power of Belief: Inspiring Kids with 'The Little Engine That Could'"
(08:42): Title: "Upcoming Projects and Plans: A Glimpse into the Future"
(08:44): "The Journey Trilogy: Seeking Liked, Happiness, and Knowledge"
(09:31): "Insider Tips and Advice for Aspiring Writers: Unlock Your Writing Potential"
(09:38): "Finding Authenticity in Writing: Trusting Your Compass"
(10:35): "The Power of Authenticity: Selling More Books Through Genuine Connection"
(10:51): "Adapting to the Digital Age: Finding New Ways to Sell Books"
(11:50): "Where to Find Us: Connecting with Our Team"
(12:06): Unleashing the Potential: A Wish for Writers and the World
(12:17): "Embracing Generosity: Building Connections and Strengthening Communities"
(12:38): "PSI 45th Annual Poetry Contest: Showcasing Poetic Brilliance and Opportunities for Writers"
(13:22): "The Power of Networking and Skill Building for Writers: Join Us at the Taylor University Professional Writers Conference!"
Welcome to Bookends, a podcast about the books, chapters, and pages of our lives and the writers behind the stories we love. Today we will get to know indie author Jill Ebstein. If you want to get in on the fun by doing an author interview, answer the questions you can find at writerkat.com.
Now on with the show.
Welcome back, bookworms. I'm your host WriterKat. I am doing a Q&A with indie author Jill Ebstein. Jill is from Denver, Colorado though she has spent most of her adult years in New York and then Boston, where she lives now.
Listen in as we get to know Jill Ebstein.
Hi Jill, Welcome to Bookends. Tell us a little about yourself.
I hale from Denver, Colorado though I’ve spent most of my adult years out east—first in New York, and then Boston, which is where my husband and I started our family. We love that our kids, who are in their twenties and thirties, now feel like it’s time to teach us. We feel particularly blessed to have a granddaughter, and much of my writing I do with her in my mind. It might sound morbid, but I want her to hear my voice when I am no longer around to express it.
A big part of our life is our love of dogs. We have a Goldendoodle named Teddy, who is 5. Two years ago, we had to say goodbye to the leader of our pack—Nemo was 14 and was amazing in all the ways that count. Plus, he was the main reason our kids came back over the years to ostensibly say hi to us. We weren’t fooled.
As for my background, I have an MBA and spent most of my professional days interacting with customers in the medical and technology fields. I think my specific expertise is gathering and making meaning out of feedback. This includes not only data analysis but, maybe even more important, intuiting what people think but aren’t comfortable saying. This idea comes up in my newly released book. I call it “Hearing the unspoken.”
In terms of writing, I’ve always liked to write and did so for various business needs for quite some time. It could be anything—a senior speech, a customer success story, a white paper. It wasn’t the most fun writing, but I could exercise my pen and play a role.
Then Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In book came out, and I felt I had something important to say. I wanted to tell the story of women who weren’t driving on the autobahn full speed but had instead chosen the more sedate carriage road for any one of a million reasons—family, balance, side hobbies, maybe as simple as wanting a more leisurely schedule. The stories of these women and how they saw their world needed to be told. We needed to expand the conversation of various journeys women take and do so in a way that was not judgemental for anyone!
These collective stories formed the basis for the first book in a series I titled “At My Pace.” The series became 3 books, and the first was titled “At My Pace: Ordinary Women Tell Their Extraordinary Stories.” It was well received. I was invited to speak at various companies - Google, Disney, TJX, Oracle, and others. It was a book whose main message was about engaging in rich conversation so we could see the world in the widest lens possible.
After that book, I followed up with two more “At My Pace” books. The second one told the stories of sons and daughters who shared the one MOST IMPORTANT lesson they took from their mom. Some were positive lessons, and some were lessons about “what not to do.” Either way, you learned something. For the writers who struggled and felt pain in the process of sharing their story, I would tell them, “Write your piece. Find your peace.” The last book in the series was from Millenials, who described how they are finding their way and what we need to understand about them. The “At My Pace” series is now officially retired.
Finally, in terms of my hobbies, when I’m not working, I am either walking a dog, baking scones, or playing tennis. That pretty much sums me up.
“Write your piece. Find your peace.” That’s a great quote, Jill. It succinctly captures how cathartic writing is. I’m adding that to my journal of favorite quotes!
Tell us about your most recent book.
I have recently published a novel, Alfred's Journey to Be Liked, which is the story of a 14-year-old neurodivergent boy and his mom and Coach. It is a coming-of-age story where "Coach" helps Alfred to understand ten simple lessons that will help him build friendships and feel more socially connected. Its genre is literary fiction with less plot, more character development, and occasional shoutouts to great literary moments of the past like Wizard of Oz. I actually began writing this at the start of Covid when I noticed that our social skills were atrophying, and I wanted to combine humor and truth in an easy short read that would make us think. I did not think that my protagonist, Alfred, was on the spectrum. I thought he was just quirky, which describes most of my world. But too many therapists, educators, and clergy have told me otherwise about Alfred, so I accepted their verdict. Still, the book can really apply to all of us, which is the main theme I notice in the Amazon reviews to date.
Was it hard writing your first novel?
It was hard because, first of all, I didn’t know I was writing a novel at the time. I wrote a piece on Medium that was poking fun at us, the writers. And when I got a strong response, I wrote a sequel piece. Eventually, I wrote 39 pieces that incorporated three substantial revisions.
But let me share the hard part of writing: When you write these days, you are acutely aware of people’s short attention spans. Combine that with complex topics you want to treat with the respect they deserve, and it is oh-so-hard. Now I know from Medium that people will usually stick with me for four minutes if I’m doing a good job. So my challenge was to write what essentially is a “social bootcamp” and keep it interesting so that people will read me for four minutes at a time.
These four-minute chapters I call “chunks.” Much of the book is dialogue and reads quickly. Other parts are personal essays of Alfred where the reader learns more about what makes him tick. Basically, I have a hybrid of a book—part screenplay, part novel, part self-help, part coaching, and then stirred up with humor.
I also can’t forget that in that whirlwind of writing and developing my story, I ran and incorporated three rounds of reader feedback. By George, I think I did it.
Who was your book written for, and what do you want readers to take away?
It was my original intent to write this book for ALL of us adults as a kind of social boot camp that could be used to help rebuild our social muscle after Covid. I hoped kids might read it too, but it was the rare versus the common experience.
Now I say this book is an ADULT read that is intended for two purposes: To help us coach our loved ones and to help us coach ourselves. It is a book with some simple messages aimed at helping us be kinder, more connected, and more aware. As a byproduct, we hope to achieve candid and deep conversations that enhance our ability to connect. “Coach,” who is helping Alfred, provides some simple rules that definitely make a difference.
For example, what does it mean to be a “generous spirit?” How do we lead with generosity when we take money out of the equation?
Here’s another example: What does it mean to not be a “know-betterer?” In other words, not be the person who leads with facts and figures to show he’s right. These are the types of people that can easily dominate a conversation. What does it mean to instead ask questions and lead with humility?
These are just two examples where if we internalized the lesson or helped those we love in some small way, we could make progress. It’s where we maybe “move the needle.”
Now I’ve had some teens read this book and tell me they really liked it, but I think that won’t be the typical response. And because I want teens to benefit, and I am worried that they won’t be primary readers, I’ve designed a series called “Alfred’s Corner,” written in a Young Adult voice, where Alfred shares Coach’s lessons and what he thinks and does with them. They are short reads and simpler in words. I have just started test marketing them.
Test marketing short reads, what a brilliant idea!
What is your favorite quote?
Right above my desk, in front of my laptop, hangs on the wall: “WHETHER YOU THINK YOU CAN OR THINK YOU CAN’T, YOU ARE RIGHT.”
Henry Ford was right, and it’s a subtle reminder to believe in what you are doing. When giving this message to kids, I use “The Little Engine That Could,” and the train says, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
What are you working on next?
Alfred’s Journey to Be Liked is the first book of a trilogy. Alfred becomes “best friends” with Hannah, who is brilliant and complicated and wants to be happier. Book 2 is Hannah’s Journey to Be Happy, where she takes two lessons from Coach and works on understanding her world. The book has actually been drafted. Book three is about Joey, the autodidact. Autodidacts ask and answer their own questions as they learn about the world in a more solo fashion. Many of us have an autodidactic side, but until recently, we didn’t pay much mind or give much credit to that personality type. Book three aims to help us understand the ways of an autodidact better.
Books two and three should take me through 2024, and then I have other ideas that I’ll save for our next podcast.
Our next podcast. Yes. I like the sound of that. You’re welcome back anytime!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write something that is meaningful to you. Don’t write for what you think will go viral on social media or gain huge followers. Start by writing something you are proud of and can easily speak about. When you understand exactly what motivated you and what you want others to take away, you will be off to a good start.
When I wrote Alfred’s story, I was given a lot of advice. Things like “literary novels” don’t sell much today. Also, “Why are you mixing prose and dialogue? Sometimes it reads like a play.” I don’t know whether Alfred will gain. He hasn’t yet. I can tell you that the people who have read Alfred’s Journey have told me they were moved. And this book has changed me. I am aware and mindful in ways that I had not been.
So, my advice to writers is to tap into what’s inside you and let that be your compass. It will teach you something about you. Readers will spot that it is authentic, which will win you some fans and be in keeping with who you are.
That’s great advice, Jill. It can be confusing in the competitive world of writing, where writers are often told to write to market and stay on top of trends. How refreshing to be reminded that readers resonate most with authenticity.
What has helped you sell the most books?
In the past, I sold the most by speaking with groups—sometimes in businesses, sometimes community get-togethers, sometimes places of worship. I would also speak at bookstores.
Today, it’s a very different picture. I tried once unsuccessfully to move books on Amazon using ads. I clearly haven’t figured it out yet. I have recently cut some audio tracks about Alfred’s simple rules. Each track is about three minutes, and I’m in the process of creating an album. I hope it will entice readers to want to know more.
Bottom line: I am figuring it out. What worked in the past won’t work as well today. I’m not a social media star that can ride that wave and gain popularity. But I am hopeful that by focusing on specific segments – education, religious institutions, senior communities—and finding the right people in those segments, I will be able to create some momentum.
Repeat: Not sure, but hopeful. I will be happy to report back to you.
That would be great. In the meantime, where can we find you?
I have a website jillebstein.com.
Medium and Substack are my favorite writing platforms. I’m glad you are there as well. I highly recommend both of those websites for writers.
What is your one wish for writers and the world at large?
Find ways to be generous to each other. Pay things forward. We can do better at finding common ground and learning about each other in ways that help us to build connections. A generous spirit can pave the way for stronger communities, better self-esteem, and more appreciation for the world around us. On this rule, in particular, Coach was right.
Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us, Jill Ebstein. And thank you, listeners, for tuning in. If you are a personal growth fan, you will love Jill Ebstein's books!
Now, on to the news for poets and writers.
Poets! Have you sent in your poems for the PSI 45th Annual Poetry Contest? You can win money and publication for your poems. This contest has not one or two but a whopping 32 categories for you. Enter one or all for the same low fee of ten dollars for PSI members or fifteen for non-members. You have until September 1st, 2023, to share your poetic brilliance with the world. To get all the details, visit poetrysocietyofIndiana.org.
Writers! If you want to hone your skills and network with authors, editors, publishers, and other cool cats in the writer world, join me at the Taylor University Professional Writers Conference on July 28th and 29th, 2023, in Upland, Indiana. You can sign up at Taylorprofessionalwritersconference.weebly.com.
Indie Authors! If you want to see how a master marketer does a book launch, join me and about 200,000 (!) other curious creatives on Saturday, August 19th at 12 p.m. Eastern Time for Alex Hormozi's book launch of $100M Leads. It's free, and he's giving goodies to everyone who shows up for his virtual book launch. To sign up, please use my referral link at book launch.xyz, so I can win a one-on-one interview with him that I will share with you!
If you're an author with a book release on the horizon or want to participate in a Q&A interview, visit writerkat.com for the author interview questions or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to support this show and lots of other upcoming author interviews and book launches, please subscribe at indieauthors.substack.com.
Alright, bookworms, that’s it for today. Visit writerkat.com for links to all my writerly projects and social media. Until next time, keep reading, keep writing, and remember; every story has the power to change lives!
Thanks to Wondercraft AI for producing this podcast. Wondercraft is a game-changer for podcast production. It’s perfect for introverts and busy authors. No being put on the spot with unexpected questions, no having to be on camera, or rearranging your schedule. Just type a draft or let Wondercraft AI help you with everything from quality audio to show notes with time stamps in seconds instead of hours. No equipment necessary. If you want to try Wondercraft AI, please use my referral link at writerkat.net to try it for free or get 50% off for the first month of premium service.
That's a wrap for this episode of the [Bookends] Podcast. Thank you for listening! We hope you enjoyed getting to know Jill Ebstein. Please subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes. We'll be back soon with more great conversations about books and authors. In the meantime, we hope you continue to enjoy those special moments between the bookends of your life.
Until next time, happy reading!