Episode #17: Listener Q&A

In today’s episode, we’re jumping into some Q&A around book writing! We’re answering YOUR questions, and then finish the show with a weekly actionable tip.

Podcast Sponsors:

NTA | Podcast Sponsor | Driven Podcast

Welcome to Driven; a show about business, life, and wellness from two confident, curious women who are pulling back the curtain on what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Each week, join hosts Diane Sanfilippo and Cassy Joy Garcia talk about being your best, showing up for your dreams, and kicking self-doubt to the curb.

Diane is a business whisperer, best-selling author, and plant-hobbyist based in San Francisco. Cassy Joy is the founder of www.FedandFit.com, best-selling author, and casserole enthusiast. She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Diane Sanfilippo: In today’s episode, we’re jumping into some Q&A around book writing. We’re answering your questions, and then we’ll finish the show with a weekly actionable tip.


  1. What’s on my plate [2:17]
  2. Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you find a publisher? [16:27]
  3. Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How do you push past perfect to start? [26:35]
  4. Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you organize the writing process? [30:15]
  5. Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you choose a publicist? [37:46]
  6. Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you choose an agent? [48:57]

Cassy Joy: Today’s show is brought to you by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners by focusing on bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes a whole-food, properly prepared, and nutrient dense diet as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s innate ability to heal.

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1.  What’s on my plate [2:17]

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s on My Plate. In this segment, we talk about what’s happening in our businesses, and in our lives this week. Cassy, what is going on over in San Antonio?

Cassy Joy: Well, it’s holiday shopping time. And to be honest, by now I have it all done. I’m one of those people where I start messaging my friends and family members; because…

Diane Sanfilippo: What’d you get me? Just kidding! {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughing} I was going to say; you know who I buy more gifts for are nieces. And I have two nephews. But it’s always asking; what are they liking this year. And I always like to put some thought into giving them something very meaningful and useful. But I’m curious; how do you like to holiday shop? Are you somebody who ahead of time? Is it done by December?

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t holiday shop.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Almost at all. So, I know we’ve been talking about this. I will have some gifting that I’m doing for some folks on my teams. So on team Balanced Bites; my Beautycounter team. Scott and I don’t really do a ton. We’ll probably go to a nice dinner. And we joke. I think a couple of years ago, I was like; I want slippers. Actually, last year I think he got me this blanket; it’s just so utilitarian. I mean, I’m the least romantic when it comes to those things. So I think it’s more that we’ll just go out to dinner. But I don’t have nieces and nephews. I don’t have a big family. I have a really small nuclear family; my parents and my sister. And we’ve gotten to the point where; I don’t know. We don’t really do it. And I tell my mom; don’t send gifts. I mean, maybe it’s bah-humbug. Maybe it’s because I’m a quality time person over gifts.

And I don’t think poorly of gifts; I think gifts are awesome. I’m wearing one of my favorite gifts ever. I’m going to take it off my foot and show you; hold on. I like the effect of my mouth leaving the microphone there. But these slippers that my sister; she loves to give really great gifts. And for years, I have not had anything that I wanted or needed. And she was like; what about these slippers? Actually, she might have just been wearing them, and I was like; what are those? So Celtic and Company. And I think they’re a European company, but you can get them here. Please hold while putting the slipper back.

This was not what you were asking. But here; it’s almost always chilly, even when it’s summer. So I’m always wearing slippers in the house, and those were a fantastic gift. But I don’t do much in the way of gifting. I’ m a year-round gifter. I’m a, “Let me send you something when it’s totally random and also probably not on sale.” Which is really impractical. {laughs} But I don’t have a list and check it twice. I’ll figure it out.

Cassy Joy: I like that approach.

Diane Sanfilippo: I am a grinch.

Cassy Joy: No you’re not!

Diane Sanfilippo: There as an Enneagram type holiday movie thing; and I was like, oh man, I bet the 8 is going to be a grinch. And darn it, it was.

Cassy Joy: Oh no!

Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway.

Cassy Joy: The way that I like to holiday shop, is because I feel this; I want to give all the kids, especially, something small. And we set a pretty modest budget for all of these gifts. But wrapping them. Ordering them, waiting for them to come in, wrapping them, and then figuring out if we are shipping them or driving them to their destination is such a process that if I don’t get them all ordered before December, I feel like I miss December and I miss the spirit, you know, to enjoy Christmas. And just sit on the couch and relax with a cup of hot cocoa, and giggle with my daughter. That would get past me because I would be stressed out in our dining room wrapping presents, wondering what are we missing, before I can ship this box to Florida.

Diane Sanfilippo: I like it. I’m into this strategy. I used to do a lot of gifting, so I’m not a total grinch. And I actually love wrapping gifts.

Cassy Joy: Do you?

Diane Sanfilippo: Send them to me, I’ll wrap them all.

Cassy Joy: I don’t enjoy that.

Diane Sanfilippo: I used to take all the gifts from my family, that were not for me, so I could actually see them. I was like; you just line them up. I probably charged my parents. {laughs} No.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: That will be 50 cents a box. I would not put it passed my younger self. But I know I used to love going and getting the wrapping paper, and figuring out the best way to wrap everything. Whether you make it look like a little piece of candy, or you fold it a certain way. Yeah, I was into it.

Cassy Joy: That’s really sweet.

Diane Sanfilippo: I promise I’m not a total grinch. I even have holiday lights up in the office right now.

Cassy Joy: She does. You’re ahead of me. We haven’t done any of that. I keep saying we’re going to wait until Thanksgiving; it’s just so I can procrastinate a little longer.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s just so late this year. The movie for type 3 is; what is this movie? Oh, Polar Express. I have not seen this film.

Cassy Joy: Oh, with Tom Hanks as the narrator.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, I should see that! I love Tom Hanks.

Cassy Joy: It’s a good; it’s like, someone is hugging your heart.

Diane Sanfilippo: My favorite movie has been pegged as the type 7 movie. Do you know what it is?

Cassy Joy: Don’t tell me. Elf!

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} It is. We can still be friends. You are permitted to still be friends.

Cassy Joy: What’s a 1? Our husbands are both 1s.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, the type 1 movie; {laughs} National Lampoon Christmas Vacation. And it’s got a quote that says; “I don’t know, Margo.” {laughing}

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: That is one of my favorites, as well. I would say National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf are actually my top 2. And Home Alone is probably my third, and I was just listening to the Home Alone soundtrack. It is a phenomenal holiday soundtrack. But that’s a type 6. Eh.

Cassy Joy: We should tell people that we’ll post this into the Driven Podcast Instagram stories so you can see it when this episode airs.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, we’ll do a repost. It’s from Enneagram Ashton, and she has been messaging me a little bit, too. So maybe one day we’ll get her on the show.

Cassy Joy: Oh, fun!

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: Well anyways. That was one of my updates I wanted to chit chat about holiday strategy.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: And then, the other things that are just going on very lightly. Because I’m trying to slow down; we have so many other big projects. But we’re actually going to update the fonts and the spacing again on our website, Diane. So this dream…

Diane Sanfilippo: I actually want to hear a lot about this. Please tell me.

Cassy Joy: You do?

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Of course, because of your background as a graphic designer. So this is such a pain point for me, as an entrepreneur. Is; I knew it wasn’t right, but I had no idea how to fix it. Does that make sense?

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: So we just went through this painstaking process. Some of it was joyful; I don’t need to be all doom and gloom. But what felt like, right now, this painful process of total rebranding. It was a year and a half plus of effort. Right; this whole site redesign, launch. We launched it while we were recording this show.

Diane Sanfilippo: It looks awesome, by the way.

Cassy Joy: Thank you so much. It does.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s so good.

Cassy Joy: It’s wildly improved over where we were before. But it’s still off. It’s not as crisp and clean. As a viewer, I don’t find myself wanting to stay on the page, because I find it a little busy in some areas. And so this designer that has been helping us, we found her; a friend of a friend. She’s been helping me with the Cook Once branding. Helping me with the other secret project that we’re working on that I’ll be announcing very soon, as this episode is live. But I asked her to take a peek at it, because it just wasn’t sitting right with me. And she came back, Diane with; I’ll have to forward it to you. But she came back with these font update suggestions; a rework of the website. And I’m like; you have the other half of my amulet. She put in visual what I so, so wanted and had no idea how to build it myself. It’s just; it’s magic. I see it as magic.

Diane Sanfilippo: I want to see it. I can’t wait. I love it. I’m so excited.

Cassy Joy: I’m so excited. It’s going to be cleaner. We’re going to clean up a few things. And then the other fun update is; we’re designing our dream home. Have I told you this?

Diane Sanfilippo: I saw it on your Instagram story.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: And it was reposted by the Home Edit.

Cassy Joy: It was! It was reposted by the Home Edit. Yeah. So Austin and I will probably be securing a lot in my parent’s neighborhood in late spring 2020. And then we have between one and two months to break ground. And once we break ground, we are married to the design that we have. Which tells me I have five months to figure out what the heck we want this house to look like. And we’re going to be living there for 10 to 15 years, if not longer. So I’ve been spending a lot of extra time on Pinterest; my extra time on Pinterest. Buying books. I bought Home Body by Joanna Gains. Which I flipped through; read the whole thing last night. Not read with a fine-tooth comb, but I flipped through the whole thing last night. it’s brilliant; beautifully done, like so much of her work. So just trying to get all the inspiration, be as practical as possible. It’s going to be exciting.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m going to live vicariously through you the entire way.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: When I was little, I had it in my head that that was something everyone would one day, when you get a house, you get to pick everything. It’s such a wonderful thing to do. And of course, not everyone will do it. So it’s wonderful to do it. But in my head as a little kid, it was like; that’s what you do. I didn’t understand that often you’re going to buy a house that exists. And I think in my head, I would also have had two kitchens. {laughs} Which I think a lot of people do, in different types of homes. But anyway. So I am pumped to watch this whole process. Because I know that whatever you build, I’m going to love. And I’m sure you’ll be like; Diane, they’re going to open some new lots down the street! {laughs} I’m just kidding.

Cassy Joy: You know I will.

Diane Sanfilippo: Cassy sends me house listings, and she’s like; come move to San Antonio! {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} I am not bashful about that. I’ll talk it all up. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Maybe one day. We’ll see. We don’t know where we’ll be for forever, but we love it here for now. But yeah, I’m so excited for you. I can’t wait.

Cassy Joy: I’m so excited. I do have to make a decision, business-related-wise, about the home stuff. Something to noodle on. I’ve been wanting a reason, for a long time, to really launch/revive my Cassy Joy Garcia personal Instagram. Don’t go look it up; it’s not exciting. There’s nothing there. Everything is happening on Fed and Fit. But, is this a chance, now, you know, to revive that account, and use it? And really start building a personal account separate from Fed and Fit the business. So it’s really something I’m kind of wrestling right now.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, with the house stuff?

Cassy Joy: With the house stuff!

Diane Sanfilippo: I was like; I don’t know, does that mean you need a selfie mirror in a certain place? I literally wasn’t even thinking the process. Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, the process! Because as a consumer, I love that stuff. When someone saves their house stuff to a highlight, I will sit there, and I will watch all of them. I just think it’s so interesting. But I don’t know that the whole Fed and Fit audience is all about home building and design.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think there are entire cable channels that would say otherwise. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} That’s true. That is accurate. Anyway.

Diane Sanfilippo: I saw a really good letterboard that was a joke of that, but I can’t think of it. I will find it and we will share it at some point.

Cassy Joy: Ok.

Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway. And I just want to say that our little banter, today, on this episode is reminding me of an audiobook that I was listening from Elvis Duran who is a well-known; the most famous in the New York area, DJ who hosted; or still hosts, I should say, Z100 Morning Zoo. Which I listened to for many, many years. And just the back and forth banter of a morning radio show; I used to love. I mean, I don’t know what it was. And I can’t be alone. Right? There are millions of people who listen to a morning show. But just the way that I didn’t really let you just do your updates, and we just had a really nice conversation. It reminded me of a morning show. And I’m like; do we need a morning show? I’m just kidding. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Yes!

Diane Sanfilippo: Let me add that to your plate.

Cassy Joy: Yes. Ok. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: In. Yes. In.

Cassy Joy: The other day I dreamt up a reality show. So, in addition to doing the Cook Once Kitchen as a cooking show.

Diane Sanfilippo: A reality show about; should we?

Cassy Joy: The Fed and Fit life. Like, what it’s like to actually bring all of this content to life from the whole team. The back end, and Gus in the office. All of it. It would be so fun.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’ll watch. I would watch it. I’d pay $1 to see that.

Cassy Joy: {laughs} You would?

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm. That was a really old joke from my childhood. We should probably move on because I’ve slowed us down long enough. But I don’t really have updates for this week, because as we do sometimes, we’re recording this episode back to back with another one. So I don’t really have new life updates. So we’ll just say; my update is that I will now be glued to whatever Instagram Cassy is going to use to share about her home building. So that’s what I’ll be doing until further notice.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: If you’re looking for me, that’s where I’ll be. {laughs}

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2.  Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you find a publisher? [16:27]

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright, Shop Talk. This week it is a listener Q&A, all about writing a book. It is the miniseries we have been diving into for the last few weeks, so hopefully you’ll rewind back and catch those previous episodes. But Cassy collected a whole bunch of questions, and she is going to throw them at me. I have not been prompted or prepped. So sometimes we’re going to do things this way; sometimes we’re going to do things really with a lot of notes. But we both personally love the idea of off the cuff Q&A because we find it fun. So we’re going to do a little bit of that this week.

Cassy Joy: Ok. So, thank you so much to everybody who submitted a question. I actually asked; we’ll be polling over on the Driven Podcast Instagram account, so definitely check that for an opportunity to submit your questions. But I asked this particular one on my Fed and Fit account because we had a couple of hours before we were going to record, and I wanted all of your questions.

Ok, Diane, first question. And a lot of people asked this, so I’m not even going to give you a name. Several folks want to know, how did you find a publisher when you have an idea to write a book? And there are several ways to do this. How did you find your publisher, Diane?

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, I really feel like I kind of had an easy route to finding a publisher. It was very serendipitous. So I basically reached out to the publisher who put out Robb Wolf’s first book, The Paleo Solution. And also the first paleo cookbook, which was Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. I had those books, and I thought; well, I think I’ve got an idea for a book. And I just sent an email. And it was the publishing house at that time was sort of in its infancy compared to what it is now. And they were like; yeah, sounds good. {laughs}

So, very unconventional. And you kind of had maybe a similar approach in the first book with Fed and Fit; sent an email, had a connection, had a conversation with the folks from Victory Belt, who is our publisher on your first two books, and all of my books thus far. But for your upcoming book, you did not have the same process. So how was that process different?

Cassy Joy: It was very different. It was much more traditional; my second process for finding a publisher. And in a traditional sense, if you Google it; how do you get your book published. The process it will probably show you is you will write a book proposal, and then you will maybe simultaneously; chicken or the egg. I don’t know what comes first. You find a book agent that will help steward you through this process. And between you and the agent, then you start pitching that proposal to all the different publishing houses.

And it’s usually not a; you sent it out to all of the publishing houses. You probably have a curated list of the ones your agent helps you choose; we think you’d be really great for these 7 publishing houses. Let’s offer it up to all of them. They look at your proposal; your proposal usually includes a full outline. And if you want to know what an outline is, then refer back to episode number 16 of Driven, which was the third episode in this series. But you would send them a full outline, and typically at least two completed chapters. So if it’s a recipe book, for example, you want to have two completed chapters. Including samples of photography, if you’re going to be your own photographer. Tested recipes, so on and so forth.

And then you would pitch these to the different publishing houses, and they get these all day. {laughs} They get these kinds of; this is really how their world works, in a lot of ways. They get these proposals. Your agent would help essentially be your representative on that side of the conversation. So you really need to pay attention to this person. They’ve got a great proposal, great business, I know they’re going to crush it in terms of marketing and effort and delivering.

And then somebody would say; the way that it worked for Cook Once, Eat All Week is the way the book deal actually lands, there’s a couple of different ways it could happen. Number one; let’s say you do pitch to 7 different publishing houses. And 6 of them are interested in the book. And they tell your agent, “I’m interested in publishing this book.” And if that’s the case, at this point, for Cook Once, Eat All Week I flew to New York. All of these publishing houses have a presence in New York City. So I flew to New York City, met with my agent. And she walked me around. I think we were there for two full days to all of these different meetings with these publishing houses, and we met with all of these editors. The ones who were interested after they saw the proposal. And then they decided they were officially interested after the meeting.

And so then by the end of day two, my agent followed up with all of them and said; who is interested. Let’s say if six of them are interested, she would then go into what’s called an auction for the book. And it works exactly how you think it works. What they’re bidding on is your advance. They’re saying I can give an advance of; I’m going to use fake numbers. But I can give an advance of 5 million dollars. And that’s a really fake number, just so you know. {laughs} It’s not even close to reality.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s like, Michelle Obama advance.

Cassy Joy: Unless you’re maybe J. K. Rowling. If they say; I’m going to give an advance of 5 million dollars. That’s where one agency comes in, and they start the opening bid. Then the rest of them can either match it, or they can add more on, or they can pass. And you kind of get down to the highest bidder, and that’s how your publisher is chosen, is the highest bidder in this auction. And your agent helps facilitate this whole thing.

What I did with Cook Once, Eat All Week, and this is the second way you could finally find your publisher, is I did what’s called a pre-empt. So I went and met with all of these publishing houses. I was honored that lots of them were very interested, and potentially going into an auction. But there were two houses that I really liked a lot, and one in particular that I felt got it. Got my vision; not only for the book, but for my brand, and where I see things going. The editor for this publishing house had even listened to old Fed and Fit podcast episodes to get a flavor for me as an educator. And just really went above and beyond to familiarize himself with the brand. And had also built what I want to build in other areas; examples of it.

So, I decided, with the guidance of my agent. I said; I don’t want to put this thing through an auction, and possibly wind up not with this person, and with this publishing house. Because my gut tells me this is where I need to be. I don’t know where the exact numbers are going to fall, but if they can get close to whatever our advance number was and what we were looking for, then I say let’s go for it. I want to give them an exclusive option for the book. And that’s what we did. And they did. They got really close. I think they matched what we were looking for. It was a wonderful experience. And that’s how I found my publisher.

Now, if you’re brand new, you may not be looking for an advance. You may be looking for royalties. You may be looking for terms would be part of the agreement. It may not be thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars that you’re going to get in terms of bidding. But an agent can help guide you through all of that. Was that too much? I hope not.

Diane Sanfilippo: No, that was great. I think it’s important for people to remember that a publisher is an investor. And they are investing in the potential. So it’s also; people get really spun out about social media and its importance, and what they’re doing with it. And the thing is; it does matter when you are looking at what is the marketability. How marketable is your book, and also you as an author, because they’re investing in you? Part of it is the concept and the book and all of that; but they’re investing in you as a person. How many of you watch Shark Tank? Probably a lot of you. So they’re deciding; this person is going to really get out there and make this book go. So, I just think it’s important for people to remember that. It’s not just the book as a thing. It’s like; this is a person who is making an investment. Who is going to put tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars up front to print this book and get it out there? And you have to remember that that’s what they are; they’re an investor.

Cassy Joy: I think that’s a really solid overview. And I want to quickly add, because some people are asking; how are you going to approach this process if you’ve never been published before, if all of this is brand new. Diane and I, the experience that we had with her publisher; the publisher I worked with on my first two books. I did not have an agent in that relationship, nor did Diane; she’s shaking her head no. And there are some publishing houses that actually prefer that you don’t bring an agent to the table. And there are other publishing houses that will not work with you if you don’t have an agent.

And so it really depends on where you want to land. And different publishing houses have different strengths. Some of them can offer you really great royalties. They can offer you ownership over your content. They can offer you; maybe they can offer you an advance. Maybe they can offer you great editing and design and distribution. Distribution is a big deal. And if they can do all of that, and if you feel confident in having your own internal house. Maybe you have a lawyer that you could send a contract off to review on your behalf, I know you can get away with that. But just know that some of the really big publishing houses out there, the New York City ones, for example; they won’t meet with you unless you have an agent. The agent would have to turn that proposal in. So that would be the step one, if you are brand new.

Diane Sanfilippo: And that’s going to be the most common experience, I think folks will have.

3.  Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How do you push past perfect to start? [26:35]

Cassy Joy: Next question. Val_Vycie wants to know, “How do you push past it being perfect as you write and actually start?”

You want me to read that again?

Diane Sanfilippo: No, I just; I know that what I write is so far from perfect when I first write it. Writing is not my strength. And it’s only gotten better through the process of doing it many, many times. But I think it’s so much more important to get the words and information out on the page, and then read it over again, and see what you wanted to do with it. Because for me, it is so often just blurting it all out. Getting it all out on the page. And having the help of an editor to say; you know what, Diane, this needs to go over here. You really didn’t explain this part well enough. Or maybe you said this a few times too many. We don’t need to repeat it over here.

So I think that the whole process of editing, obviously, if you’re just starting and trying to do this on your own, you don’t have an editor sitting there waiting for your work. But, when you do get to a point where you have that; I just think you have to lower your expectation and lower your standard in that first draft. And that doesn’t mean you lower the standard for what it will be. It just means that if you don’t start putting words on the page, it’s just never going to happen. I mean; but in chair, words on the page. That is the work. And it is really, really hard.

I listened to other podcasts; I listen to a lot of edutainment types of podcasts. I listen to Happier in Hollywood a lot. And they are two TV writers. And they actually talked about writing, whether it’s for TV or, I think at least one of them has written a book. And they’ve had other authors on their show talking about the procrastination. Just how hard it is to go from what’s in your head to what’s on the page or the screen. And I think a lot of us think; well, I have this great idea, and it’s very well formed, and it’s a big idea. It’s definitely going to fill up a whole book. And then you sit down to write it out, and you’re like; oh, that was 10,000 words. And I think we talked about this before.

So, I think a lot of times, we think our idea is big and very complete, and then we start writing it and we’re like; oh. It really wasn’t as much as I thought. Or I couldn’t get as far as I thought I could. So if you are trying to do it too well to start, you will not get much out. I think you’re just going to keep stopping yourself.

Cassy Joy: I agree. Yeah, I totally agree. I think you have to be ready for there to be 7 drafts.

Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, you think that you wrote it how it should have been. Maybe some people are great writers. And I think this with recipes, and when an editor comes back with a question, I’m like; well whatever I put is what I mean. {laughs} But I don’t feel that way when it comes to chapter content, as I’ll content, versus something like a recipe. I’m very much in it for; how do you think it should sound? And sometimes they’ll help edit a paragraph, and I’m like; isn’t that what I wrote? {laughs} It’s what I meant to say. So yeah, definitely. If you can’t get that stuff out onto the page initially, that editing process is going to be grueling for you. If this paralysis of it being perfect initially is so hard, you’re in for a rude awakening when you get to the point where you have to have edits.

4.  Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you organize the writing process? [30:15]

Cassy Joy: That’s very true. Ok, next question. StephPope19 asks, “How did you organize the writing process?”

Diane Sanfilippo: OK, so for me, because I am not great at sticking to schedules on my own as a Rebel tendency, and somebody who does not like having things on my calendar, at all. For me, my favorite day is a blank day. {laughs} Maybe a manicure appointment. I had to get to the point where there were due dates for certain chapters to an editor.

So, if you don’t have an editor, and you’re not at that point in the process, I think having some kind of accountability to someone or something. For me it has always worked backwards from; When is this book going to get out into the world. And if I don’t meet all of the deadlines that are leading up to it, either I will suffer the consequences of a tighter deadline on the next chapter, or it’s not going to release if I don’t keep hitting these deadlines.

So, if you need to work in some sort of accountability for yourself, then that’s what I think can be really helpful, to just get something done each step of the way, and working backwards from whatever that goal is. Was I answering that? I feel like I spaced on the question halfway through.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. How do you organize the writing process? I think that’s fair.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I organize it by chapter, and by a due date for that chapter. And then; I don’t really know what else there is to that. I mean, if there are references, I’ll have a separate file with references with links and with whatever the quote was, and if it was a research paper or a website or whatever it was. I’ll have that in a separate file that I’m constantly; I’ll say chapter 1, and I’ll make sure I put all the links in there.

And then if I’m organizing content for recipes, for example, I don’t expect to know the order that the recipes are going to be in. This is for a more traditional cookbook, within a chapter. Let’s just say it’s poultry, or chicken, or red meat. Whatever it is. I don’t know what order those are going to be in until the photos are taken. Because I tend to decide the order of the chapter based on how the photos end up. So that there’s a visual cadence to the photos. So that’s something that I won’t decide as I’m writing.

But organizing content in that way, deciding how many of each type of recipe. When you’re outlining, and you’re thinking; ok, I’m going to have 10 chicken recipes, 10 beef, whatever it’s going to be. Part of it is also seeing; how does it all fall within the scope of the whole book. And is this evenly and well balanced. Did I put three times as many treats, and that doesn’t make any sense? So part of that is really going to happen in your outline. And then as you’re working through it, if you decide; this has to go in. Just making sure things are kind of balanced. What about you?

Cassy Joy: That’s great. I do something very, very similar. When I am outlining a book, the first step that I do is what Diane just described. I outline it. We will sit down. I will come up with the sections of the book first. Now, if you listen back to the last episode, I said get every idea on your page and then see what sections emerge. But at this stage in the game, working in the next book in a concept, I have a really good idea of what the sections are already. For example, for book number three I have my sections outlined. And I know there’s going to be a lot of recipes in this book. So the first heavy lifting piece was; number one, finding the team. The right team. So finding the publisher, finding the editor, finding the agent. I’m outsourcing food photography for this book, so finding the right photographer, and a digital editor. So getting all those parts and pieces in place.

And I try to look at breaking up the work for a book in terms of what’s going to take the longest, and I’m going to start the stuff that’s going to take the longest first. And then I’m going to do the stuff that won’t take as long later. And now that I’ve got a little experience under my belt, I know what those things are. So organizing the team is number one. And then after that, we put the details on the outline.

So we just finished, for example, drafting all of the names and the concepts for every single recipe that’s going to be in book three. It’s going to be exciting. I want to spoil some stuff, but I actually think I’m under contract and I can’t. Anyway, it’s going to be great. Some of the recipes in here, they’re going to be some of my best work ever. So we outline all of these; and exactly what Diane said. We are going to have chapters organized by protein. So because I know people want more chicken, and more beef, than they do necessarily seafood, then I’m going to make sure those are heavier, beefier chapters. No pun actually intended.

And then seafood is there; it’s going to be enough of a resource for the people who want that, but not overwhelming to the people who maybe don’t. So we’ll build chapters out exactly how she just described.

And then how I organize the content after that is, like I said; I start the work that takes the longest to do. So our recipe work; we want every single recipe tested by two people within Fed and Fit. So I write all the recipes. And I create them. And then I rewrite the recipe that I drafted. Because I can write a recipe without actually making a dish first. And this is just how my workflow goes. I draft a recipe, then I make it; I follow it. I make updates to it, and then it’s ready for my internal team.

And then my internal team; two people within Fed and Fit are going to make that dish. And they’re going to give me their feedback. And not everybody is a trained chef, so it’s a nice array of feedback. And then once it passes the in-house feedback, then we go to recipe testers. And we’re going to have it tested by three people from the Fed and Fit audience. And we will source these recipe testers. It’s a focus group. You can call it a workshop stage; it’s very much in line with that. And that takes such a long time. Because it’s going to take us; we have five people that have to test the recipe after I’m done with it before it’s ready to be made and photographed.

And then, when it’s ready to be made and photographed, we have a scheduled shoot day with the photographer. And we’ll sit there, we’ll make it, we’ll style it. We know the recipe is rock solid, and we know all of the changes are already incorporated. We’re not going to add a garnish that wasn’t already included on the recipe. Which can be a pain. In some of my first books, I would add cilantro, but the recipe didn’t call for cilantro, because I thought it looked better with it.

So anyway, that’s kind of how we do it. I start on recipes first. And then I actually write the front matter once I’m done planning and writing all of the recipes. I save the front matter for the end. Because I know that’s a faster turnaround. Because it’s just between me and an editor.

Diane Sanfilippo: I did the opposite, with Keto Quick Start. I sat myself in the chair and forced myself to get the front matter done. Because that part was so much; you know, it’s harder in a different way for me. That intense brain power of explaining scientific things in easy to understand terms was really challenging. And I knew that the recipe work would take as long as I had. You know what I mean? So for me it was like; I will get this done in as much time as I have, and kind of compress it. And I really compressed that work. But that was not fun. Either way, having to compress any of it is always challenging.

5.  Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you choose a publicist? [37:46]

Cassy Joy: It is. Ok. So a couple of questions about PR, and I’m going to read them both and toss them at you. Anna Scott, she asks, “How did you both create buzz around your books? Was PR a part of the strategy?” And then the Curious Coconut, our friend, asks, “How did you choose your publicist?” So I think it would be good to chat about both of these at once.

Diane Sanfilippo: Why don’t you start with this one?

Cassy Joy: Ok. So yes, to answer Anna’s question first; PR was a huge part of my strategy. The advice that I had gotten; and I think I mentioned this maybe in our first episode about the books. I viewed a book as a chance for my company to be top of my mind. I did not think; oh my gosh, I’m going to sell 500,000 copies of Fed and Fit book and I’m going to be able to retire early and then go build my dream home. I knew I wasn’t going to sell a bunch; I wasn’t doing it to sell a bunch of copies. I was doing it, and putting in the monstrous effort, to leverage my brand. Because authorship equals authority, and I knew I needed authority in this online wellness space to be able to really add validity to what I’m planning on building and am currently building.

So, because of that, I doubled down on Fed and Fit. I invested, of course, a ton of time and money in actually making the book. Buying the groceries, and all of that stuff. All the effort, and time it takes away from other parts of business. But I also decided to hire a publicist; a PR firm, for Fed and Fit. Because I said; while I’m going to be doing everything that I can to get word out about this book, this project; I want someone else using the book as an excuse to get my brand and me as an authority top of mind. I wanted somebody who could really get my name out there in circles that I’m not already a part of.

Because in the world of publicity, having something new that you’re launching give publicists a reason to reach out to media. Right? So if you listen to podcasts; any other podcast, you know that people have interviews constantly when they’re coming out with a new book. And a publicist can help you coordinate that. And I did a lot of that myself. We did a lot of that in-house. But that was my thought with Fed and Fit .and it worked. They definitely helped secure us some magazine stuff that I never would have had. Helped to secure some television things.

But my publicist for Cook Once, Eat All Week was the real; she was exactly what I needed. And she specialized in the food world. So, to answer the second part of your question, how did I find her. My first round, I found somebody I really liked. They primarily worked with musicians and didn’t have any cookbook authors on their roster. And I would be unique. And my original thought was; oh, they don’t have anybody like me that they’re pitching, it should be pretty easy to pitch me to their established avenues. But that wasn’t actually correct thinking. Because they also didn’t exactly understand the nuances of our industry, even though they worked really hard and were a great firm.

So my second publicist that I hired for Cook Once, Eat All Week; she knew the ins. She knew the routes. She knows what routes cookbooks can take. Which ones are worth considering? What are the events to show up to? And she helped tremendously. So I found her; I honestly cannot remember exactly how I found her name. I emailed her out of the blue, thinking; I don’t even know if she’s going to answer my email. Because she was my pie in the sky dream publicist when I found her and her work. And when she emailed back and offered to hop on a phone call, I thought; the stars are aligning. And then she agreed to take me on as a client.

And I keep thinking that one day, I hope that we remain friends for decades, because maybe one day decades from now I’ll have the guts to say; what made you want to take on little old me back then? {laughs} Because I feel like; I don’t know. She did a lot with the project. Maybe she saw the potential in the brand, or the book. But I just; I found my dream publicist who could help get the book in front of people that I couldn’t reach. And my team worked really hard to reach out to podcasts and coordinate a lot, and she did the rest.

I don’t know. I kind of rambled there. But I hope that’s helpful. I know that you worked with somebody on your last book, right?

Diane Sanfilippo: I had, yes. I had a publicist help with Practical Paleo, when I re-released it as a second edition back in the fall of 2016, when you and I toured together. And then I did hire the same firm again for Keto Quick Start. And the company that I found; it was from a referral many years ago. I don’t know if it was the best fit; they mostly do food brands. In our space, though. So they do know the space really well. They had worked with several authors before. But books were not their primary work. So I don’t know that it was an ideal fit.

I did really like the person who was my main point of contact. So my main publicist, I liked her a lot. I felt like she was my number one cheerleader, my number one fan. And she was really working hard to get certain spots for me. They really helped a lot with television. But on the second round of what we did; and this was a big financial investment for me.

So, something that people don’t know is that even when you’re working with a big publishing house, they’ll have an in-house publicist, and they’ll do a certain amount of work. But we had a pretty small publicist situation. When I first had Practical Paleo published out there, there really wasn’t a ton of marketing and PR effort behind it. That was really all on my own shoulders. I was booking my own signings at that point. I remember, I think my husband even booked some for my second. I was like, can you just call the store? I can’t do it.

And that is something that usually the publisher is more involved with; actually booking those types of events for most folks. But looking at media and magazines, televisions, online publications, podcasts, etc. I’m just trying to remember the first time around with the PR work. It was just a little bit of an interesting situation, since it was a second edition. It wasn’t a brand-new book. And part of it made that easier, because it was like; wow, this 97-week New York Times’ bestseller has been re-released, and here’s what you can find! And all of that. But it was a little bit challenging.

So, my overall experience was good. And I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret doing it. But I do remember after the second round of that type of time and financial investment, I had to say if I ever do hire a publicist for a book again, I don’t think I can hire the same company. Because we did not end up getting any national media exposure aside from Hallmark Home and Family.

This is a pretty detailed thing to talk about, but for somebody who gets to this point, I think it’s helpful to know. You need to have local exposure before you can really get national exposure for most people. There will always be those one-offs. Because the big media outlets, or a big national show like the Today Show or something like that. They need to see what they’re potentially getting. They need to see a demo reel. What do you do, when you’re on live television? Because that’s a huge deal; it’s really important. So we had a ton of that experience.

And I think sometimes the timing just doesn’t work out, too. The political timing is actually really important. So if you’re in an election year. And I think we were in an election year, right, that fall? Remember, Cassy, when we were touring? So I think some of that comes into play, as well.

So yeah. I just; I don’t know. I’m left a little unsure of the experience that I had. But I think everybody just has to do whatever feels right from your gut, and then you’ll learn from that. And for a lot of folks, you’re going to be limited by what is your budget. Because you can only hire certain people, depending on your budget. You might not have it to pay them. So you just have to kind of go from there.

But I think there’s a lot that people can do these days that’s much more grassroots. And there’s a lot of podcasts out there where you’re going to be talking to your target audience; even if they only have a couple hundred listeners. That’s a couple of hundred people who now just got your message in their ears while they’re folding laundry. So whether it’s a bigger show or a smaller show, I think it’s important to remember, there are blogs out there that might want to feature you. You could send them a book. There are podcasts. so there are a lot of ways to do things publicity-wise with small scale media now that social media is a thing, that you don’t always need to be kind of stressed out or focused on the big picture, big media. Because we are media now. Everybody is now media. That’s what social media means. So it might mean that you have to talk to more people to reach the same 10,000 people you’re trying to reach instead of going on a local news show or something like that that might reach tens of thousands of people. But the conversion, I’ve found, of people who actually then go buy the book and take action on what you were doing. When you do something smaller, I think the conversion is actually better. Of course, if you’re on a national show that has a huge viewership in the millions, that’s going to move the needle. But aside from that, I think we can do a lot on our own. So I don’t want anyone to feel like; oh my gosh, I have to have all of this.

Cassy Joy: I’m really glad you said that. Because you don’t have to. I invested; I chose from the very beginning. I knew I was going to set aside; my first publicist I set aside $15,000. And that may not be; and that’s not necessarily money I had, y’all. I was not making money on Fed and Fit in those days. But that was just a business decision that I made.

To Diane’s point; for Cook Once, Eat All Week, the publicist that I did hire, she sought after print media and television. Local and national. And that’s what I wanted her to do. She also helped organize some stuff around events. But my team in house; you could set up with a VA. You could do this yourself if you have the time, like she’s saying. Right to the podcasts. Ask your readers. This is what I did. I asked Fed and Fit readers; you guys, listeners. And I said; what podcasts do you listen to that you think I would be a good fit on? And we reached out to every single one of them. And I think I did over 100 interviews.

And I was not picky about how many spins that show had. I didn’t care if they had two reviews on iTunes. I was going to do it. Because if they had, to Diane’s point, 12 listeners; they were probably really dedicated listeners, and that’s worth it to me. And I really attribute a lot of the success of the book to that.

6.  Shop Talk: Listener Questions: How did you choose an agent? [48:57]

Cassy Joy: Ok. Another question. The Amanda Agenda wants to know; “How do you find an agent who gets what you’re trying to do?” Have you ever talked to any agents, Diane?

Diane Sanfilippo: I talked to an agent about a different book concept that I had about a year ago. So of course, I was in the middle of writing Keto Quick Start. And I was like; I’m going to talk to this agent about this whole other idea that I have. So I did talk to an agent who I just met though some networking; I don’t know, weekends that I had been to. She works mostly in the health space, but I had a different idea I wanted to run by her. So, I had met her at an event. And I do like her, and she’s worked with some people that we know, and I think she does a great job. I don’t know if it was ultimately be the right fit if I do want to pursue this specific idea that I was running by her. But that was really the only experience, and not with something that I have now published. So do you want to share your experience there?

Cassy Joy: Yeah. I mean, my experience was a little different because I was working on my third concept. I was what industry would call a proven author, so it’s slightly different. I had, at that point, different agents. For example, my publicist, who I’ve called her Jiminy Cricket a lot, because she really helped kind of guide me through a lot of this different publishing world; the more traditional, conventional publishing world. Helped me set up meetings with some of her favorite agents. So I would say a lot of that was gone off of recommendations that I trusted in the industry.

So if you know anybody in the industry, you could say; hey, do you know any great agents that would take a phone call? I would set up as many phone calls as you possibly can with folks. And if you don’t know anybody in the industry, and you’re brand new, and you’re not a proven author, don’t get discouraged. I would just start Googling and look up book agencies. They’re out there. My agent works for an agency. And I think you’ll find them. They’re going to pop up. Fletcher and Co. is the agency she is with. That’s one of the big ones out there.

And I’m sure if you contact them, and you say; I’m just trying to start a conversation and see if I might be a good fit for your firm, and you email, they’ll be able to help direct you. And if you get a no, always ask for a, “Who do you recommend I talk to next?” Never take no for a no. Always ask for a redirection. So I think that’s how you would find it. And then you just have as many conversations as possible. I would tell them a little bit about your concept, a little bit about your vision for your brand, and see what do they think. What do they see as the vision for it? And if they want to totally change it before they’d be willing to pitch it to anybody, then move on. Find somebody else.


Cassy Joy: Ms. Jen Borders wants to know, Diane, “How do you decide on a topic?” If you’re going to write a book, you have so many ideas. You’re a Manifestor; you have all the ideas in the world. How do you pick one?

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, basically, this is what we talked about on the first few episodes on this whole topic. It has to be something, we said, you’re willing to live and breathe for what; a minimum of two years? The first year of the process of working on the actual book, and then after that, you’ve got at least a whole year from when it comes out to when you’re talking about it consistently and still going to be doing that.

So, how do you pick a topic? Listen, if you have a few that you feel you could go on, part of it is; what can you really flesh out an idea on. Part of it is; what do people care about right now? So here’s an example. If you’re like; I’m really into keto diet, and I’m also really into the enneagram. Well, I would tell you to go with the enneagram. Because there’s a wave of people who are really interested in learning more about that. And the trend for keto books is actually on the downturn. So you have to match what you want to do with what people out there at large are interested in.

Now, of course, if you have two equally exciting idea, that could be a little bit challenging. But chances are, they’re not. So what’s burning, what do you think you could really get the content out on when you do have these conversations with an agent. With whoever it’s going to be. What are they excited about too? Because, you have to be excited, but you do need to have some people in your corner who are telling you; yes, the market is saying we want more of this. And I don’t know; that’s kind of where I would go with it.

I haven’t; I don’t know that I’ve had 6 ideas at a time. Because the other part is, once you know the process of needing to prove your concept and workshop it. So back to the conversation I had with this agent last year, she was kind of pressing me on the whole idea of workshopping it. What am I going to do to prove the concept that I have, and make sure that it’s working for people in whatever framework I’m presenting? Make sure that’s working for people. And it did kind of put me a little bit back to say; ok, I don’t even know if I want to workshop this right now, because I’ve got a lot going on that I’m really focused on. So I love this idea, and I feel like I could write a book like this. But the work it’s going to take in between is more than I’m ready for today.

So I don’t know. Those are my thoughts on it.

Cassy Joy: I love it. I have nothing to add. I think that’s great. I totally agree. I usually have; to Diane’s point, I have one big idea that I could be like; yeah, I could be married to this for two solid years, and then perpetuity. {laughs} Have it be a part of my resume forever. I think one of those, when you really think about it in those terms, will bubble to the top.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s it for Driven this week. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe in Apple podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow us on Instagram @TheDrivenPodcast. Cassy is @FedandFit and I am @DianeSanfilippo. Tune in next week where we kick off a whole new miniseries here on Driven. We’ll see you next week.