Wendy Piersall was on the top of the world, perhaps the world’s most recognized entrepreneur mom blogger until one day when things changed and affected her livelihood. Here, she talks about how she was able to pick up the pieces and how she makes the world–from kids to adults and everyone in between–a much happier place.
TAMAR: Hi, everybody. I have the coolest person. Well, everybody’s very cool who’s on the podcast, but I have an amazing person that at least in this context, I’ve known her the longest. I’ve Wendy Piersall with me today. Well, we’ve known each other for over 10 years now, I would say probably 12,13 years at least. Yeah. And it’s funny because when we first met each other we were in different employment, in different career trajectories. And that’s part of the podcast here, we’ve changed our trajectories. She met me in a tech environment and marketing environment. And she was in her own environment. She’ll share her story. And now I’m in a completely different space. So, Wendy and I have kept in touch, and I’ve been watching her flourish and do amazing things in the last couple years, and I just felt that that was amazing to have her here and talk to her and get her to share her story with us. So, hi.
WENDY PIERSALL: Hey, this is so awesome.
WENDY PIERSALL: You might, am I true? Oh, gee, friends.
WENDY PIERSALL: I think it was either 2006 or 2007 that we met. You’re right. We were both in totally different places.
WENDY PIERSALL: No, two totally different things.
TAMAR: Yes. So, share a little bit about that. So, tell everybody where you are, how we met. And we’ll take from there.
WENDY PIERSALL: I’m trying to remember if we met through Digg, which isn’t even a thing anymore, or through ProBlogger, Darren Rowse’s blog, it was one of the two, but it was right around that time, maybe it was even through StumbleUpon like all these things.
TAMAR: So, I went out kind of some of our readers are not in the tech world at all. And I think yeah, it’s weird because it’s such a pivot. So, Digg and StumbleUpon and ProBlogger are the marketer, blogger communities, if you will. DIGG.COM, if you’re familiar with Reddit these days, you’re probably familiar with how Digg was Reddit, is now the new Digg. If you will, it was ready as the front page of the internet these days, that’s what they advertise themselves as, but Digg was in 2006, 2007 was pretty much the Reddit of the internet. And when you were on the homepage of Digg, you got some great visibility, and it was really helpful.
WENDY PIERSALL: Like server crash, server crash kind of traffic.
TAMAR: Yeah, server crash kind of traffic. And StumbleUpon was sort of the same thing. Anyone familiar with that, you hit a button, and it brought you to a website. So, it was all about discovery of new content. And that’s where you and I discovered each other.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, that’s right. I remember the first time I met you in person, I’m pretty sure it was 2009, South by Southwest and you were working for Mashable at the time.
TAMAR: Yeah. And I was pregnant.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yes, you were.
TAMAR: And I was massive. And sometimes, yeah, I’m looking at pictures of myself. And I’m like, whaat? Yeah. So, some of the photographers did a great job, though, and didn’t make it so obvious. But I do remember this one picture. We were standing and we were looking up. And it was very well hidden. I gave birth I think six weeks. No, it was two months later. Yeah,
WENDY PIERSALL: You were pretty far along.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. So back then I started one blog for parents working at home. And I did a blog post about kids’ activities because it was the beginning of the summer and I was working from home and I’m like, what am I going to do with my kids at home and I’m trying to start this business. So, I pulled together all these kids’ activities. I thought, yeah, well, maybe my blog readers would be interested. And it goes crazy. Like who would have thought that kids’ activities would have just gone so nuts on the internet, got on the front page of Digg? I’m pretty sure my server did crash. It was nuts. So, I went hmm, maybe I’ll do some more things about kids’ activities. So, I started another blog about kids’ activities. And long story short, that just went also crazy, and I ditched the first blog. And I’ve been really in many ways, shapes and forms been in the kids’ activities niche ever since.
TAMAR: It’s interesting, you’ll talk about it, but you really evolved to kids’ activities that aren’t necessarily good activities, but they are good activities.
WENDY PIERSALL: I think a lot of my success can be attributed to following I really enjoy; if I could put myself as a demographic, what I needed as a mom slash business owner. And listening to people is just figuring, following what works, which I know sounds super simplistic, but I think is very powerful in terms of figuring out career trajectories.
TAMAR: Yeah. And it’s great because a lot of people go to work, and they’re really not following their passion, but you really are and going in, within the realm of this podcast, especially, and just the whole methodology, the mantra of what I’m trying to do here is that you’re really encompassing and embracing self-care in a way that’s financially lucrative for yourself.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, actually, to this day, and we still only work four days a week, I will not work Fridays, period. We don’t start till 9:45am so that I can walk every day, exercise, meditate, do my journaling every morning. So, I’ve got this whole self-care routine. And that comes before anything that I do with business.
TAMAR: That’s awesome. And yeah, it’s like the Miracle Morning, if you’re familiar with, I don’t do it in the morning, sometimes, I mean, I do the workout in the morning, and I totally get where you’re coming from. But I like to put my journaling, which is kind of random. To some degree I journal, but not as much as probably you do. And I spread it throughout the day. I know the Miracle Morning is really important for so many people. But it’s also about making sure you make time for it throughout the day as much as you can. So yeah.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, I’m not even familiar with this Miracle Morning thing that you’re talking about.
WENDY PIERSALL: I just think it was around 2015 or maybe was 2016, 2017 I don’t even know what it was, I just started being way more proactive about my mental health, like not waiting for me to become depressed or anxious and seeking help, but saying, I need to take care of myself and my brain every single day. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they’re not challenges or crises. 2019 is the perfect example of that in which my mom passed away. My dad moved out of state, I landed in the hospital, two of my kids had life threatening crises. And I started questioning everything. And no part of me was really pissed. I was like, I do all this stuff to try to be Zen and serene and not create drama or challenges in my life. And it doesn’t really prevent all of it. I will say this made it so that 2019 I did not crash and burn like I did in 2013 when a lot less happened to me, and I totally crashed and burned.
TAMAR: Yeah. So just going back to the Miracle Morning, it’s a book by an author, young dude in his 40s, probably his name is Hal Elrod. And basically, the concept of the Miracle Morning is that you wake up, you exercise, you journal, you meditate, you read. And I don’t even remember what those other elements are. But I follow that to some degree. I do follow that, I say to some degree, I do spread it. A lot of people, there are communities online that cater to this Miracle Morning mindset. And they’re all about rising early, and just getting it done before the rest of the world catches up with you. And I think that’s fine. But I also think that for some people’s sanity and some people’s sleep, you can’t necessarily do that. So spread it out and just make sure you do focus on yourself. Because yeah, it helps so much.
WENDY PIERSALL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it truly is the distinction between crashing and burning and being able to get through life altering crises.
TAMAR: Yeah, at least for me. So, tell me a little bit about your rise above the ashes story. Tell me a little bit about 2013 and where you were professionally because I know your story kind of stems from that professional side.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, so my website, woojr.com was in its heyday. I peaked out at 5 million page views a month. At some point, I really didn’t even need to lift a finger to make money. Which sounds really weird to say that out loud because I realize now in retrospect, what a gift that has been, but the website just kept getting traffic and kept growing. And at the beginning of 2013, my husband wanted to start a business. So, 2012, let’s kind of set the stage he decides, he wants to quit his job and start a marina boat repair business. So, I’m like, all right, I’ll be sole breadwinner, I can handle this, you did this for me, honey, I’ll do this for you. And at the beginning of 2013, within two weeks of each other, my ad network decided to shift gears and shift audiences. So, they dropped me.
TAMAR: And Google made it your ad network, just to introduce the readers, your means of getting paid for your website?
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, exactly. Of those 5 million page views, every one of those page views had ads on it. And those ad displays brought me my revenue.
WENDY PIERSALL: And an ad network will basically sell ads for you and keep a cut of the profits. Since this was still also kind of in the midst of the recession, we had nowhere near come out of it. Ad revenue, like finding a new ad network at that time was really challenging. More ad networks had gone out of business then has started up new. So, I was really nervous about finding a new ad network.
TAMAR: Just having people to work, who desire companies that desire to work with that. And they were probably struggling.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, absolutely. Then, two weeks after that, Google made an interface change, and I lost, like, 30% of my traffic overnight. It was not an algorithm change; it was an interface change. And I’ll never forget that day. And every time I talk about it, I tear up a little, I got into my bed, and I curled up into a fetal position. And I just started bawling. Like, it was the most terrifying moments of my life. So, I was like, oh, my God, we’ve got a house, I’ve got three kids, I’ve got a husband and his business, and this was all on my shoulders, and my shoulders have crumbled. What the F am I going to do?
TAMAR: Right. And just to also go into the non-technical side, when an algorithm change happens, people can typically recover from it, it can typically try to figure out how to work within the algorithm so that they can be visible again. And when Google makes a change, like an interface change, there’s nothing you can do, especially with the way this specific change, just there is no way.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, exactly. They just changed the way that basically the image results appeared for users. And they used to show your website and they stopped showing the websites in the background. So, it was terrifying. And I’ll be honest, for the next year and a half, I just sat around feeling sorry for myself, it just kind of almost I mean, I don’t want to diminish PTSD, but I think it was PTSD ish in terms of how I dealt with it because I did not really function for a while, I didn’t really know how to recover from that and I definitely felt victim to the big corporate Google, took me a long time. Still not entirely there of wanting to blame them for my misfortune. And how do I get out of that? But at the end of 2013, a book publisher found some of my old kids’ activities, which were animal mandalas that I hadn’t even drawn them as much as I just hacked them together with some clipart and they said do you want to do a whole book of animal mandalas adult coloring pages, and this was totally before the craze, and I almost talked them out of it. I’m like, you’re crazy. Nobody wants these things. I think they can get them for free on my website. That’s not even my popular content. But they convinced me to do it, which maybe there was a little bit of divine intervention, but I was like, I got nothing else going on. And it was truly my climbing out of the ashes and road to recovery. Although it didn’t seem like it at the time that book did okay, maybe made like $3,000 which you know, is I think is okay for a book deal, but not going to support a family of five. But in 2016, wait, 2014 they asked me to do another one. So, I did another book of flower mandalas and that one hit it just the right time. And that was right as this adult coloring book craze was going bonkers. And my book got onto the front page of the Huffington Post. The book became a national bestseller. And I suddenly had a purpose again, like oh my gosh, I’m part of this viral craze. And it was so much fun Tamar, I cannot even tell you to suddenly draw all day and do adult coloring books. That year was blissful, it was so much fun. The minute that book hit the bestseller list, they call me up and they’re like, you have two more book deals immediately. Can you get them done before the fall? And I’m just like, book for the next six months? Like, who would not especially me being artsy and craftsy. This was like absolute dream gig.
TAMAR: Yeah, and I remember. I mean, being an observer, it was so cool to see this happening and say, oh, wow, I actually knew that adult coloring book author because there weren’t that many people either. So, you really had the ability to penetrate the market and really seize the day and be one of those foremost, on the right word, the authority person,
WENDY PIERSALL: One of the early ones.
TAMAR: You are an early adopter. I mean, it was very cool and I would say was compelling, in the corner watching your Facebook. I hope you know that. I still have your coloring book. I still go to that sometimes for my own self-care.
WENDY PIERSALL: Ah, that to me was the most gratifying part of it. I used to get emails from people who actually had true PTSD or true depression. And they would email me and say how much the coloring and my coloring books, were helping them to get through it and get onto the other side. And I got a couple of those emails, and I would receive those and just start bawling my eyes out being like, oh my God, I am so amazingly blessed to be able to do something that I enjoy so much. That’s actually making a difference for other people, too. It was awesome. So much fun.
TAMAR: Yeah, that’s amazing. What a gift you have.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, thank you. But sadly, that trend kind of came and then it kind of went.
WENDY PIERSALL: But that led me to where I am now. One of the things that I saw when all the adult coloring books were selling out because no publisher, even the biggest publishers really were not able to kind of foresee the demand and the trend that was coming. Nobody’s books were staying in print, except for the print on demand coloring books, through Amazon‘s well at that time. CreateSpace is now Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP. And all of our books were out of stock, you’d see that people trying to buy the book got to wait six weeks, eight weeks, whatever for this book to arrive. But the print on demand books were going into the top 10, top five on Amazon, because they’re the only ones that could stay in stock, because they were print on demand. And it was really eye opening to me to see how well these were doing. I knew one of the girls whose book did so well. She made $335,000 from just one of her adult coloring books. And I went hmm, maybe I should consider self-publishing. So going back to my kids’ activities website that had floundered. Now, for the last few years, I thought, well, I just want to sell this thing. But since I’ve ignored it for two, three years, wherever it was, at the time, it’s now losing traffic every month. At least need to build it back up so that it’s gaining traffic again. So that I can sell it because otherwise it’s not going to be worth much. And I went into that content. I’m like, I’ll just take a chance and this is so funny what we think could be popular versus what actually is popular. I don’t think people will pay for books for content that they can get free on my website, but I’ll try it, we’ll see. And I again was so wrong again. Like I didn’t think people would buy adult coloring books. I was so wrong, did a couple of words search books for elementary school kids and those started bringing in about 15 $100 a month which I mean, that was on top of my blog that was still making money. I’m like, oh, okay, I’ll do a few more of these books. And I started doing research. I did a drawing book for kids. That one guy ironically enough, got number 14 on Amazon last Christmas, still stays in the top 500. It’s been selling that way since 2017. We now have 20 books, kids’ activity books that we have published, we have 10 more that are coming out this year. But let me backtrack to say, when I thought, I was just going to get rid of this website and start doing more books, or just I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. When I finally got the website growing again, I’d re found my love for it. And I’m like, oh, I don’t want to sell this thing anymore. This is kind of fun. This is kind of cool. I think I’ll continue to do this. And that’s sort of where I am now, where we have the website that makes money from the ads, we have the books that the books are now 80% of my revenue, where the blog ads, and the blog traffic is only about 20% of my revenue. But now I’m still thinking like what next steps, one of the things I’m thinking about is going back to doing more. What I really need to do is follow my joy again. And I’ve had this idea that’s been pestering me in terms of teaching artists how to build some of the things that I’ve built in terms of passive income, and I have no idea what that’s going to look like. I think I just need to kind of follow the formula I just outlined earlier, figure out what’s going to make me the happiest and most joyful and stick it out there and throw a bunch of stuff on the wall and see what sticks and go with that. But I now I have a team of four. I mean, I have three employees now that work on the books that work on the website, and all that kind of runs on its own.
TAMAR: It’s amazing.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, so there’s been plenty of points of rising from the ashes.
TAMAR: Yeah. I have some thoughts for you. I’ll share them separately.
WENDY PIERSALL: Okay, cool. I would totally value your opinion. Can’t wait to hear about that.
TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. As an entrepreneur, it’s amazing to see. I feel like, it’s funny I’m sitting here and I’m recording this podcast. And it’s like, when you’re recording and you see like, the sound bites, they get small and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the recordings on anything, but you see them get small and big. And I kind of like mimic your rollercoaster of emotions and change and what you’ve experienced in the last couple years.
WENDY PIERSALL: That’s interesting.
WENDY PIERSALL: How cool is that?
TAMAR: Yeah. I’m not so sure about the recording thing, but I’m like, wait a minute, she’s really kind of been on this roller coaster.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: And you figure things out. And you’ve been able to do things very successfully. And I think have some nice ideas for you that’ll keep you on that trajectory.
WENDY PIERSALL: So cool. I think the best thing that I got out of the roller coaster is that for the longest time, I would kind of operate as if well, what happens if I lose it all? And kind of distill it down to the fear of failure, what happens if I pour everything into this and it totally just flops, what happens if something, an algorithm change happens or now I’m publishing on Amazon, what happens if Amazon changes their algorithm and my bestselling book just tanks. And that used to just drive so much fear into my heart to the point where it could again paralyze me and in the last year or so, especially with my mom passing away last year. and all the other stuff that I was talking about, and just seeing how I was able to weather that storm so much differently than I was able to. Not as elegantly in the past, now I look at like, what if I’ve weathered so much. I’ll come out on the other side, I know it no matter what, which is a really freeing place to be because I don’t really care if my big bold ideas make it or don’t make it. Yeah, I’m going to find it’s going to lead me to wherever it is that I need to be. And that’s what I think is the crux of your whole podcast Tamar, in terms of career trajectories that wherever you are, if you go in a certain direction, even if it seems super zigzaggy, it’s going to lead you in the right place as long as you really kind of be true to your own values and your own heart and tried to do the best.
TAMAR: Right, 100%. Yeah, it’s like you’re climbing a mountain and I I’ve done past podcasts where I said, climbing a mountain wasn’t just climbing another maybe it’s bigger boat, it probably is. And I want to hone in on your attitude throughout this. I really think that having a healthy mindset from the beginning changes perspective in general. When you were suffering, I mean, when you were going through the trauma of having to potentially lose your livelihood to take care of your family. I think nothing would have been able to make you feel better, like any jab at you is probably a lot worse felt than it was, like you had mentioned that happens last year.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: And I was having this conversation. Somebody had posted on Twitter, I think a couple years ago, and said something pretty extreme. And I was very challenged, I actually want to see if I can pull it up. So, this person posted on Twitter, and she said, just so you know, ghosting is emotional abuse, not returning calls is emotional abuse, leaving people on read is emotional abuse. If you do this, you are an abuser. And of course, it was a topic of tremendous discussion. And obviously when you think about that, you’re like, that’s a little extreme of a mindset. But at least for me, I’ve felt that that was being ignored. was probably the worst form of emotional abuse, especially when done maliciously, and in a bad way. Of course, I don’t see that anymore. But I can see how I had seen that before. So, you really take things a lot more to heart when you’re in a more fragile emotional mindset.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not sure that I agree with that assessment. I mean, I suppose that it could be that, but it could also be better boundaries in your life. Like, for me, 2019 was all about putting better boundaries in place, in both my personal life and my business life. It’s just interesting.
TAMAR: Yeah, I know it’s an extreme take.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: And I agree with the extreme take to win. I completely would have agreed with that extreme take when I was in my worst
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah,
TAMAR: But now it also depends. There are people for example, I had messaged somebody, I was trying to get into my hotel room, couldn’t get into my own hotel room, when I was being ignored. And I remember feeling, oh, my God, she knows. And I knew she was checking your messages and reading them. And like that was the end of a friendship because I knew I was being ignored maliciously. I couldn’t get into my own hotel room so I could get my luggage and check out from a hotel. I think about it in a very, very emotionally fragile context.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, yeah.
TAMAR: That was very difficult. But yeah, in general, I don’t I completely agree. I think that that’s an extreme, extreme take. But that’s, that’s the thing. When you’re in the ashes, you see the world and all of a sudden, you kind of skew those stories to really, I guess, benefit you in way.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, I called 2019 or 2013, my year of turtling, in which I was kind of like a turtle upside down, and I was just flailing my arms and legs going, oh, poor me. I’m helpless. Which I totally own it. It’s not how I felt back then. That’s for sure.
TAMAR: Yeah. When you’re stronger, and you’re in it, and all that other stuff, you’re capable of doing so much more and as you continue to build upon that, it’s like you’re mental. I’m reading Stephen Covey right now. And he talks about an emotional bank and how you have relationships with people. And if you give to more people you’re adding to that bank. Well, I think that you can kind of mimic that with your mental bank toward your own personal health, more resilient and stronger and are able to overcome these things that would have otherwise knocked you down in little wins, would have knocked me down at that time big. Yeah, completely knocked me down. And yet now you probably have to hit me with a truck. And that’s important. And I think I see that in you as well. I think that you’re able to in the way you’re able to have built upon this and succeeded. It’s great and I love watching your progress. And it’s amazing.
WENDY PIERSALL: It’s so cool to have that perspective from somebody that I’ve known as long as I’ve known you. Because it’s hard. When you’re in it, it’s not always easy to see objectively. So thank you.
TAMAR: Yeah, well, if we need to be more accountable to each other in general, outside of this, I would definitely do it because we’re similar. You’re definitely more entrepreneurial than I am. But at the same time, I mean, that’s what your entrepreneurial moms is. Is that correct? So, I’ve always been like that. One who dabbled, but at the same time, I had to always have something to kind of sustain me. And at this point, about a year ago, the main gig that was supporting my income, my family decided to restructure, and my position was eliminated. And I had this idea of building a fragrance brand, and I said, I’m going to go all in. And so that’s what I’m doing. It’s scary, but it’s what I need to do. Because I mean, this is my sense of empowerment. And I’m hoping I’ll get some letters from people saying, this really changed my life.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: Yeah, we’ll see. But you inspire me a lot because your story definitely mimics mine, but it inspires my journey and inspires the path that I’m taking. And knowing that, like, we’re all struggled but we all come out stronger.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. My husband always said, one day you should write a book about what’s the word, it wasn’t rising from the ashes, like recovering from major loss or something. And I don’t know. But I think that there’s many other people in the world who’ve dealt with bigger things than I have. But there are many of you who have dealt with that. I guess I’ll say that.
TAMAR: Right. Yeah. I think that I’ve been working toward a memoir for a long time. I actually still haven’t started at the tab right now on my computer. I have it open. I haven’t worked on it for a few weeks now. But yeah, I think we should, I think you should. I think that these stories are important. I think everybody has a really important story to tell. And I think your story in particular would be really motivational, because look where you are now.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, that is true. But then that gets to what we were talking about earlier in terms of putting your own story out there, makes you so much more visible.
WENDY PIERSALL: I’m all about putting really good work out there. I would love for my work to be global or my work to be a superstar. I have no interest in me being a superstar.
TAMAR: Yeah, that’s a challenge we face particularly as women in a position where, and I used to be one of those people. But I was an early adopter so, nobody was doing it. And I wouldn’t say nobody was even reading it. I had a blog, I announced the birth of my son as the first social media prince, because that’s Google’s at that point. You were able to Google Search social media prince, and there were no other results.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah (laughing).
TAMAR: I don’t think I could do that anymore. And he’s almost 11. So nowadays, I feel that I cannot, I don’t want to be front and center. I had a stalker for actually two years.
WENDY PIERSALL: Ooh. One of my biggest fears.
TAMAR: My God, you should have seen my email. I got like, 50 to 60 emails a day. He was vocal. He was in Germany. And it was like some random thing. I always like to respond to people. I’m not the kind of person who likes to sleep, had people hanging, I guess in the way I have been responding. And my response to that emotional abuse comment, I don’t like leaving people hanging, even if they’re just random strangers. Yeah, that’s why I personalized it even more, because when you’re invested in response and you’re not getting one. That’s why I see it that way. But anyway, some guy had emailed me, he’s like, I have just bought a domain name. I want to sell this website for $3 million. It was the weirdest thing ever. And I said, where are you coming from? I don’t have a million dollars to give you. Your website was just launched. Like, obviously, I was giving him sort of a facetious response.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: That was such a bad idea. Let’s just put it that way. Like, yeah, the next day, $5 million to play. This is insane. But he obviously wasn’t just limited to selling his products. It was just like; he had an infatuation with me. Fortunately, I don’t use the email address that he emailed. But he had worked on it for so long. And yeah, I mean, there’s definitely that scrutiny in general of being in a position where you have somebody who sees you as someone who’s a leader, and I mean, I’ve taken a backseat, I guess I use my kids as excuses. But at the same time, I didn’t want my kids to be exposed in that way anymore. And even though the social media prince he was, I don’t know, like 10 days old, you can’t really see anything, so I don’t post pictures of my children on Facebook anymore. My husband, on the other hand, kind of does, but I limit that stuff. I engaged only in niche communities where I feel like I can contribute value to them versus broadcasting to people with so many different opinions and mindsets. So yeah, I hear that.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. Well, I mean, so many people make a misstep. And that just entirely defines who they are online. Not that people don’t deserve to have consequences for crappy things that they say or do. But one of the things and this gets a little spiritual, one of the things that I’ve really found that has been really key to my mental health is forgiveness, forgiving myself and forgiving others. Because carrying around anger serves nobody and really blocks your creativity, blocks your ability to do good in the world. And I remember, I was watching some show where there was a scene of people of from the 16, or 1700s of witches getting burned at the stake. And it was so just creepily uncanny, where I feel like I’m watching the comment thread of an article on Yahoo, like, 300 years ago in a different setting. I almost feel like it’s sort of built into our DNA that the more visible you are, the more you could be hunted as a target, like, on a literal level, in terms of animals, who are visible, like they have camouflage in order to be less seen so that they’re safer from predators. And it’s kind of a rather little literal and extreme way to describe it. But yeah, that is something I’m working on because I know that I need to be at least a little bit more visible. If I’m going to be doing some of the things that I’m talking about doing. And yet, dude, it’s scary. It’s scary. I’m scared.
TAMAR: Absolutely, it is. And it’s very hard to be public facing person in a company, and yet that really wants to do things. I didn’t feel like I had a voice for several years, I needed to kind of come out of that shell. And now that I feel comfortable to do so I still just feel comfortable to do so in smaller contexts. That’s why on Facebook, I still post but I just don’t post where I know, 2000 plus people are following, it’s actually 5000 or something now because of the followers as well. I just don’t want to be in that scrutiny. And I think the expectation of setting an example, I think there’s a way to do so. But you just really need to tread carefully.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: Because otherwise you’re just going to be Travis from Uber and Adam from WeWork, all the guys who kind of squandered it all.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: And that their investors and all the people involved in the company are picking up the pieces. Yeah, it’s hard because women, especially, feel like they have to be shy, they have to be me.
WENDY PIERSALL: It’s kind of expected of us culturally.
TAMAR: So, I have a question for you because you talked about how you went into the self-publishing space. So, I want to ask you if you’re writing your book, if you’re doing anything in the future. Do you recommend self-publishing over working with a traditional publisher?
WENDY PIERSALL: Generally, yeah.
WENDY PIERSALL: Here’s the thing. A traditional publisher, really is looking for people who have a big platform, either you know, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest or whatever. They want people who have a social media following, Instagram. That will help sell the book because traditional publishers don’t put any money into marketing anymore. They want you to sell the book yourself. Well, if you can sell the book yourself why would you work with a traditional publisher when you can self-publish. But there are definitely times, I really say that definitely for the nonfiction space, for the fiction space, it’s completely different. I know nothing about it. I don’t really think that that applies as much. It’s not certainly some people have self-published in the fiction space. Like the Hunger Games woman where she start exceptionally well. I don’t know how she did it. No idea.
TAMAR: Oh, I know before she was big. I used to see her on the mommy blogs.
WENDY PIERSALL: Oh, interesting . That’s so fascinating.
TAMAR: No, that was the Divergent Series.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, you’re right that I misspoke. It was the Divergent Series that I was referencing. Not that.
TAMAR: Okay. Yeah, she was.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. But here’s the thing. It’s next to impossible to get somebody like Barnes and Noble or even any smaller chains of stores to carry your books if you’re self-published.
WENDY PIERSALL: So if there’s a reason that you need your books, in airports, or in bookstores, if that’s something that’s important to your business model, then yeah, I would absolutely think that you would want to work with traditional publishers.
TAMAR: Yeah, I guess there’s pros and cons. So yeah, if you self-publish, and it happens to be super successful, how do they even get in the library? It’s like, because you somehow have to get it out there. And I guess I don’t really know what the traditional publishers do to make sure it gets distributed to the libraries of the world. It’s also something to think about, I’ve been reading a lot of books that I’ve been going to library lately. Even though you’ve answered my question in the way I wanted to kind of think about, its distribution is challenging.
WENDY PIERSALL: Oh, it is and unfortunately, with my particular niche of books, being kids’ activity books, which could almost be considered a commodity in some ways, like, there’s a bazillion people who do word search books, you know what I mean?
WENDY PIERSALL: That when I’ve talked to book distributors, who will basically shop your books to bookstores our kinds of books sell the most on a venue that is Amazon? So, if they would have to wrap our entire line, because that’s how book distributors work, they would have to also take a percentage of what we sell on Amazon, and we’d end up making up less money versus more, if that makes sense.
WENDY PIERSAL: But I’ll tell you, I like royalties on a per book basis. I always reference what I made on a self-published adult coloring book versus my traditionally published adult coloring book. And that bestseller that I was telling about, this coloring flower man got into the top 100 on Nielsen books, which is like, the nice Nielsen ratings for books sold well, I think 25,000 copies, possibly even 30,000 copies, I don’t know, I’d have to look at my royalty statement. And overall, I made like 65 cents per book. And I made, I think, something like 12 or $14,000 from that specific title. Whereas my self-published books through Amazon KDP made $3.24 per book. And I could sell, I don’t even know how many I sold, I could probably pull up this spreadsheet and tell you, but it’s a fraction of that amount. And that book also made about 12 or $13,000.
TAMAR: Right? Yeah.
WENDY PIERSALL: So, you can sell a heck of a lot less self-published and make a heck a lot more money. If you have some sort of platform or ability to get people to buy it.
TAMAR: Yeah. Cool.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. big proponent of self-publishing, that is a short answer to a very long answer. (laughing).
TAMAR: Yeah. It sounds like there’s a lot more to it. Elaborate on your platform. And I mean, obviously, you need like, the website and the presence and there’s still marketing that you need to do because yeah, you’re right, like you’re saying the publishers still have to do the marketing. What’s the point in working with traditional publishers to some degree, that was something for me when I started working in that space. They wanted me to do it, but just given birth to my baby, that was my first baby, my first book, and I wasn’t able to be as marketable as I probably would have liked. So, there’s a struggle and I guess I would have made more money because yeah, you get like a dollar a book. So anyway, I have a wrap up question for you.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: If you can give your earlier self, one piece of advice what would you tell her?
WENDY PIERSALL: Oh, gosh, okay. I mean, sometimes I think that that’s a loaded question.
TAMAR: If you listened to the podcast before and you wouldn’t know I would ask this one. No pressure.
WENDY PIERSALL: No pressure. I think I would have to say two things. And this is one of the things as we touched on earlier. And something that I used to know and kind of gotten away from and I’m getting back to again recently is to follow your joy.
TAMAR: Wouldn’t you elaborate a little bit on the joy? Because we don’t really talk about self-care, even though I kind of got it because everything you’re doing is pretty much self-care to some degree.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, it is. In terms of following your joy? Well, here’s the thing, it’s like, the whole reason that I have a successful business is because I followed my joy. And I don’t subscribe to do what you love, and the money will follow. And that’s not what I’m saying. Because I think there’s a really important distinction to make. Because following your joy, also means you’re going to have to do the bookkeeping, also means you’re going to have to do the marketing, also means you’re going to have to do the managing of people. You know what I mean? It’s like, there’s a lot of things that are not joyful, about following your joy, if you’re going to have a real business come out of it. But if it makes you joyful, and if you can bring more joy into the world, I believe that that is an indicator of something, if it works for you, it can also work for other people. And yeah, and I don’t mean this maybe gets a little movie groovy. But I do feel like we are all put on this earth with certain talents and certain abilities. And if we’re following our joy, that means we’re playing to our own strengths. I am never going to be the world’s greatest bookkeeper; I am never going to be the world’s greatest organizer. But my bookkeeper loves what he does and my organizer that I’ve hired in the past month, she gets off on helping me get more organized. I love being creative, and helping other people tap into their own creativity and that’s been kind of the common thread throughout everything I’ve done. Whether it be helping entrepreneurs start a business, whether it be helping kids have fun with crafts, or activities, whether it be helping adults, with their adult coloring books that I did and in giving them an access to feeling creative when they didn’t need to be artistic. It’s me following that joy, and bringing that out into the world.
TAMAR: Love it. Yeah, and you delegate when you don’t want to deal with the stuff that’s not so joyful and you need to do?
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah. Well, I mean, and here’s the thing is like. I actually just got back from Australia and I was on this business retreat. And I was talking about how do I move into this new realm of talking to artists, or creatives, and teaching them how to build six figure businesses with what they already have? And the woman who was running the retreat was like well, Wendy, what do you want? What do you want to do? And I was like, well, what I really want to do is I want to get back to my artwork, and I just burst into tears. And I was like, wow, that was really weird and inappropriate. And she’s like, no, Wendy, not at all. She’s like, you’ve gotten away from your joy. And that’s what you need to follow again, to get back to what it is that you really should be doing. I was like, duh, oh my gosh, duh. So, that’s why I was able to get away from it for a while because in the last few years, I haven’t done a lot of creativity stuff. But I’ve been building business stuff. And now I need to find some balance and getting back to some of the joyful stuff while still building the business.
TAMAR: Right. Awesome. Cool. And your second item, I hope you still have it.
WENDY PIERSALL: I do still have it. It would be to constantly ask yourself, slash myself, how did I get myself into a situation and what can I do to get myself out of it? Because talking about 2013 and I was journaling, I wasn’t able to pull myself out of that mind fog and that kind of place of disempowerment until I could acknowledge what did I do to get myself into this situation? Because as long as I kept saying, well, this was Google’s fault. It was my ad networks’ fault. Poor me. I can’t do anything because I’m the victim.
TAMAR: Yeah, right.
WENDY PIERSALL: There was nothing that I could do to get myself out of it. There was nothing I could do to fix the problem. There was nothing I could do to advance my career forward again, as long as I was blaming other people, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything that happens to me or everything that I do is within my control. I hope I’m making that clarification clear. But if I’m coming from a place of, well, it’s not my fault, and I can’t do anything about fixing it, then I’m powerless.
TAMAR: Right? Yeah, one of the things that’s a very recurring theme in all the books that I’m reading, if you take the victim mindset that you’re unable to do anything, then you won’t.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
TAMAR: If they take control over it, and chances are, you’re going to have to make some serious drastic changes, but you will be so much happier for it.
WENDY PIERSALL: Yeah.
TAMAR: Difficult when you feel like you’ve been beaten down.
WENDY PIERSALL: And here’s the thing and it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t beaten down, it doesn’t mean that things didn’t happen to me, but I really had to shift my focus from what happens to me to what can I do?
TAMAR: Right, exactly. And I love that. I think that’s really important.
WENDY PIERSALL: Super important.
TAMAR: Yeah. Take leadership, take control.
TAMAR: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story, for being very transparent with me forgetting all the rules with me , for all the things.
WENDY PIERSALL: Oh, my God, this is just a joy to talk to you, to just kind of not only take a little trip down memory lane, but to talk about things that really are meaningful and matter. To me, it’s just so inspiring that we started in totally different places, and now you’re taking what you’ve gone through and now you’re making a difference with it and to reconnect with your like this. I’m just impressed. I’m inspired. And thank you, thank you for inviting me here and letting me be a part of that.
TAMAR: Yeah, why it’s a big push, I love having these conversations because every single person I’ve spoken to today, like they’re in a better, happier space. And I’m trying to figure out how to save the last 10, 15 years for you, at least when we started about 13 years. I mean, it’s tremendous growth, and I can’t have some visual in my mind that I can’t even articulate but it’s great to see that you’re doing what you love, following your joy, and taking complete ownership of all that good stuff.
WENDY PIERSALL: Nice. Well said. Thank you.
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