How to Succeed as a Self-Published Author

picture of Valerie Coleman










MEET Valerie J. Lewis Coleman:  Valerie J. Lewis Coleman ( and has helped thousands of women across the world find relational fulfillment. With over twenty years of experience in family and relationships, this expert has given advice on various issues including identifying the four types of male hunters, avoiding seventy percent of men who only want the goody box and winning the heart of Mr. Right-For-You. As she assists others with building strong relationships, she shares how she overcame personal struggles and offers proven techniques to help you get off the crazy cycle of relational demise in her bestselling novel The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box! To learn more about Valerie, her self-published books and overcoming relational matters, visit

As a multi best-selling author and award-winning publisher, Valerie has helped thousands of aspiring authors navigate the mysterious labyrinth of self-publishing. Having published more than thirty books, Valerie has launched writing careers for experts as well as inmates and high school students through the Passionate Pens program. To learn more about Valerie, read her Write Money Incorporated feature interview directly below. 

valerie lewis coleman pen of the writer conference

WMI:    What were you doing before you launched Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Prior to launching PenOfTheWriter, I worked as a senior industrial engineer for Delphi Automotive Systems (formerly General Motors). I saved the company millions of dollars by improving systems, reducing costs and eliminating wastes. I transitioned those problem-solving skills to the book business to help aspiring authors save thousands of dollars, mountains of frustration and hours of research by showing them how to make publishing quick, easy and affordable.

WMI:    How much time did you devote to building a business plan before you started your company? What process did you follow when building the business plan?

VC:      I did not have a formal business plan with a competitive analysis, marketing strategies and financials. I have a strategic plan comprised of annual objectives, monthly goals and potential opportunities. I review the plan every month with my accountability partner, Dr. Karen MR Townsend.

WMI:    Looking back, what would you have done differently to create a smoother transition from the corporate world into self-employment?

VC:      My facility closed and relocated my position to Mexico. No hablo Española muy bien. Since I was thrust into full-time entrepreneurism, I would have preferred to go out on my terms with at least three years of salary in savings.

WMI:    When and why did you launch Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Pen of the Writer was officially launched in 2006; however, I had been coaching aspiring authors for years prior to that. My purpose is to help people make better choices to improve their quality of life. As I assisted Vanessa Miller with the launch her self-publishing company, I met tons of people who did not understand business, let alone the book business. They were spending way too much money for inferior products and thus, unable to make a profit. Shady companies were robbing them blind of their money and their dreams. Compelled to make a difference, I created Pen of the Writer to be a reliable resource with relevant, useable information.

WMI:    What was your initial vision for Pen of the Writer?

VC:      Lao Tzu said, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” My vision for Pen of the Writer is to teach people how to successfully self-publish books by minimizing costs and maximizing profit to create a quality product comparable to those of traditional publishing houses.

WMI:    Tell us about the services that your company offers. Also, who is your target audience?

VC:      My ideal client is the person who 1) Wants to write and publish a book, but doesn’t know how; 2) Has published a book, but wants to improve the quality and cost and 3) Wants a cost-effective option to vanity and subsidy publishing. To meet the varying needs of aspiring authors, we offer a range of services:

Do-It-Yourself Options

Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals—These how-to guides step you through the mysterious labyrinth of self-publishing. Master the secrets of writing from an editor’s perspective, avoid dishonest publishers and understand how to make publishing quick, easy and affordable!

Because Your Words Matter— Nigeria, Uganda, London, Toronto, Japan. I spend quite a bit of time coaching clients from across the world. The Because Your Words Matter eCourse makes me accessible every minute of the day to aspiring authors; stateside and abroad. This virtual DIY and coaching program launches this spring!

Show-Me-How-to-Do-It Options

Coaching—For the writer who wants to take the do-it-yourself approach to master self-publishing, let our staff take you by the hand. We’ll walk with you through the process and guide you through the serpentine maze of the book business.

Publisher on Call—If a gentle nudge is all you need to finish your book, then Publisher on Call is for you. Weekly consultations with our lead publisher allow you to obtain insider information at a fraction of the investment of coaching. And the first fifteen minutes are free!

Rate My Publisher—Although our imprint, Queen V Publishing, is a world-renowned publishing company, we realize that our services are not the best fit for everyone. To help you choose a reputable publisher, let Pen of the Writer conduct an in-depth analysis. You provide us with the name of the publishing company you’re considering. We’ll research the company, get answers to the tough questions and arm you with the pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Print My Book!—Since inception, Pen of the Writer has collaborated with more than 250 printers worldwide. We decoded the confusing and complex technical language of book printers to save clients thousands of dollars. Let us confirm your printing needs, shop your book project and then provide you with the top quotes.

Conferences—The first step to successful publishing is studying the art and business of writing. Pen of the Writer has created several conferences to take you from pen to paper to published!

Do-It-for-Me Options

We offer two imprints and multiple plans for your book-publishing needs:

Queen V Publishing is our answer to those who want the benefits of self-publishing without the hassle. We’ll put our experts to work for you.

Passionate Pens is our fundraising program for schools, churches and organizations. We’ll instruct your audience on the basics of the publishing business, coordinate the compilation of an anthology and then provide your organization with quality books to sell for a profit!

dayton ohio book conference

WMI:    You organize three writer conferences a year. Just what is involved in putting a writer’s conference together?

VC:      This question is an entire interview of its own. Event planning looks easy when done well; however, lots of behind-the-scenes work is required to make it run without a flaw. An effective conference for writers considers the expectations of several audiences: aspiring authors, speakers, sponsors, vendors and volunteers. Many conference planners neglect at least one, if not all, of the groups required to make the event a success. Another critical aspect of a conference for writers is stellar marketing and promotions. You can create the most wonderful event, confirm the industry’s premier speakers and still fall short of the glory if no one attends.

WMI:    What can writers and readers expect from the 2015 writers conferences?

VC:      The Dayton Book Expo is celebrating six years on April 25. Dayton Metro Library is collaborating with us to promote the event, confirm authors and host its annual The Big Read. The day includes sessions for aspiring authors, activities for kids and signings by sixty authors. The twelfth annual Pen to Paper Literary Symposium will be held on October 3 in Dayton. The purpose of this conference is to provide attendees with the foundation for self-publishing including:

  • Establishing Your Publishing Company
  • Judging a Book by Its Cover and Content
  • Pricing Your Book to Sell
  • Copyright 101
  • Millionaire Mindset for the Self-Published Author

The Write On! Workshop—which normally occurs the last Saturday in March—will not be hosted this year as I have been confirmed to present in Detroit that day. This conference focuses on the art of writing. It delves into identifying your audience, recognizing why you are writing (fix a problem, entertain, encourage, etc.) and a series of interactive exercises including creating a chapter outline, writing prompts and overcoming writer’s block.

WMI:    You’ve also written and published books: The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box, Blending Families An Anthology, Tainted Mirror An Anthology and Self-Publishing Made Easy. When was your first book published and what three key marketing strategies have you learned since your first title hit the market?

VC:      Blended Families An Anthology released in 2006. Published to provide biblical principles and practical tools for stepfamilies, this book has been #1 on in the parenting-stepfamily category and topped several other best-sellers’ lists.

I have learned much since the launch of my first book. The following strategies have proven quite valuable:

  1. You have to connect with your audience face-to-face and on social media. Most authors are introverts who hide behind the computer attempting to sell books. Although digital marketing is essential, meeting potential readers, speaking engagements and networking provide quantum leaps toward success.
  2. Honest reviews from real, unbiased readers go a long way. Sites likecom, and help authors boost exposure and gain new readers.
  3. Think beyond bookstores (which are filled with competitive titles) for book sales. Daycares, schools, hospitals, military bases and trade shows are great venues.

WMI:    An influx of powerful African American literature occurred during the Harlem Renaissance which produced writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Countee Cullen. These writers’ voices continue to inspire and empower readers. Today we’re seeing larger numbers of African American stories being published, particularly stories that focus on romance and relationships. What legacy do you think currently published books will leave on the human landscape over time, fifty or more years from now?

VC:      My hope is that African American authors—and authors in general—take pride in their work, invest in professional editing and publish the highest quality books possible so that the legacy is one of pride and not embarrassment; satisfaction and not shame.

WMI:    Social media networks, press releases, interviews, etc. provide a myriad of marketing opportunities. Share three to four specific marketing strategies/action steps authors can take to get more exposure for their books.

VC:      At speaking engagements, trade shows and drive-up windows, I give potential readers an eight-page booklet that I created using Microsoft Publisher. The booklet includes the cover image, synopsis, reviews, the first chapter and then a call-to-action. This tool has won over many would-be readers. Collaborating with authors of like genre—and work ethic—has positioned me to meet readers, sell books, generate leads and reduce costs. Many authors fail to see their book as a marketing tool. From the title, cover image and of course, the content, every aspect of the product must be perfect. I added a call-to-action at the end of The Goody Box Book asking readers to write a review, buy copies for friends and invite me to conduct a workshop or book club discussion.

WMI:    You’ve been managing Pen of the Writer for over a decade. To keep your business going, you have to generate cash inflow. Tell us about two to three effective cash inflow generating strategies you’ve found effective.

VC:      As a subject matter expert, event planners often contract with me to facilitate workshops, keynotes and seminars. In addition to the speaking fee, back-of-the-room sales of my books and I Love Myself T-shirts generate revenue. Although the process is labor intensive, publishing books for clients is another income stream (Queen V Publishing). Once Because Your Words Matter launches, I anticipate the service will create residual income for years.

WMI:    In addition to being a business owner, you’re also a wife and mother. How do you balance it all?

VC:      I wish that I could puff my chest to boast the ‘S’ on my Superwoman costume, but I have a team of people who help me. My husband is quite supportive of my business. He helps with household chores, cooks and promotes me on social media. Since my sons are grown with families of their own, I have ample time to be productive.

WMI:    Please give us a brief synopsis of The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box.

VC:      The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box–Relationship advice that your father didn’t tell you and your mother didn’t know

Successful. Beautiful. Intelligent. Yet a satisfying relationship eludes Debra Hampton. At thirty-five years old, she can’t figure out why her philosophy on men—and what they want from women—isn’t working. She’s trapped in a cycle of shattered relationships, until a friend refers her to a relationship guru. After some resistance, Debra finds refuge in his counsel as he helps her navigate through the storms of rejection and failed love. Once he reveals the error of her ways, will Debra master the forbidden secrets to attract her soul mate or continue to keep love at bay?

goody box novel cover image

WMI:    How have you managed to keep The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box relevant in the eyes of readers since it was published?

VC:      Because I wrote The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box for you and every woman whose first love is supposed to be her father, its timeless message permeates the hearts of readers. As a result, a considerable amount of sales comes from referrals. I keep the I-love-myself-too-much-to-give-you-my-goody-box message in front of people by posting relationship advice on social media, hosting contests and conducting workshops.

WMI:    Blended Families, Tainted Mirror and A Kingdom Waiting are anthologies. Why did you decide to take this approach (developing an anthology) when developing these books?

VC:      I published these anthologies for several reasons: 1) To obtain a variety of perspectives to better convey the message: Blended Families An Anthology is about managing life in a step family; Tainted Mirror An Anthology delves into how to overcome physical and virtual restrainers that hold us hostage; A Kingdom Waiting illustrates the resiliency of youth; 2) To create a vehicle for aspiring authors to become published and 3) To maximize exposure by having multiple people promoting the titles.

WMI:    Being that the anthologies include stories from several writers, offering readers diverse point of views, was it easier to build reader interests in the anthologies than in The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box? Please explain.

VC:      The Forbidden Secrets of the Goody Box has proven to be much easier to promote and sell. More people are interested in real relationship advice that leads to fulfilling relationships than the messages of the other titles which are quite specific. Another consideration is that The Goody Box Book is fiction while the other titles are nonfiction.

WMI:    Is Lord, Help Me to Hold Out non-fiction or fiction? What is the inspiration behind the book?

VC:      Lord, Help Me to Hold Out is a fiction written by Joy Marino. The manuscript went through extensive developmental editing during the publishing process. In lieu of an additional fee for the substantial edit, Joy agreed to list me as co-author. Her inspiration for writing this book was to show women the importance of choosing wisely with respect to men.

WMI:    Please share a few tips from Self-Publishing Made Easy that help to make writing, publishing and marketing a book less challenging.

VC:      The Self-Publishing Made Easy Journals are chocked full of information, charts and activities to help writers transition to authors.

Create a POWER Team—Publishing consumes about thirty percent of your time, energy and money expended to complete your book. To expedite the process and minimize disruptions, I recommend creating a network of supporters. Your POWER (Pen Of the WritER) Team should consist of people who have your best interest at heart and will give you honest, timely feedback. Knowledge of the book business is not a requirement; however, include at least one business person and two avid readers.

Organizing your thoughts—With all that you want to say, where do you start? When are you finished? How do you eat the elephant? Regardless of genre, creating a chapter outline helps pinpoint your effort for maximum results. My tool of choice is the Bubble Map Technique because it takes the mammoth project of writing and chops it into manageable, bite-sized chunks.

Competitive Analysis—As a self-published author, your book must effectively compete with traditionally published books including exterior/interior quality and pricing. Using superior competition as a benchmark positions you for excellence. Corral a couple of members from your POWER Team to conduct a competitive analysis at a bookstore like Barnes and Noble (libraries are also great for this assessment). Peruse the section with books of the same genre as yours. Grab twenty to thirty books, a cup of java and then find a secluded area. Analyze the page count and retail price. For the books that appeal most to you, note pertinent information about:

  • Cover design (front, back and spine)
  • Graphic designer
  • Editor
  • Illustrator
  • Publisher

WMI:    What’s next for Valerie J. Lewis Coleman? Where do you see yourself and Pen of the Writer three to five years from now?

VC:      Five years from now, I will have helped over 10,000 writers become published authors. My calendar will be filled with international speaking engagements. The Goody Box Book brand will have grown to include an audio book (releases later this year), the sequel and a version for teens. My company will be self-sufficient generating a six-figure, annual revenue.

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