Interview by Aggie Villanueva
When you hear Jo-Anne Vandermeulen’s pleasant and energetic voice on her radio show, Authors Articulating on BlogTalkRadio, of which she is producer & host, for some reason you feel soothed and energized. You get the same sizzling reaction when reading her blogs.
In a way, this is an odd reaction because in August 2008, Jo-Anne was diagnosed, after 28 tortured months of neurological and medical tests, with an illness that took away her teaching career and seared her with constant pain. The specialists nailed-down the illness as Fibromyalgia.
Jo-Anne explains, “With this illness, (which began in April of 2006) I developed severe depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety and panic attacks. I lost my memory, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t multi-task, and even had trouble hearing. All confidence flowing like a fast moving brook, bubbling up and out of me, drained to silt.”
This could have devastated another. But Jo-Anne was joyful when diagnosed in 2008. “The good news is since I no longer teach school, I’m removed from the stress, have the freedom to take care of myself, have the time to participate in mental and physical exercise regimes, and I can rest whenever needed to make my days comfortable, although not completely pain-free.”
“Over the past 3 years (thankfully), I’ve gained about 60% of my strength, and my short and long term memory has recovered. I still tire and get over-stimulated easily, but nothing like how it was. Honestly, losing so many abilities at once was devastating at first. Going from teaching full time to suddenly at home, unable to do the simplest task, was more than discouraging; but, instead of allowing this illness to strike me down, I decided to turn this unexpected illness into a circumstance for opportunity.”
And so began her new career, in April of 2006, because she was physically unable to do anything else. This unsinkable lady had always wanted to write a book. A total novice, she wrote, and didn’t begin seriously studying writing until later.
Jo-Anne wrote her first book in seventeen days: a story that produced unbelievable self-healing. And now, her first novel is the upcoming Conquer All Obstacles, a suspense romance novel published by Laurus Books.
Once Jo-Anne finished writing a book, she learned that it doesn’t stop there. She threw herself into learning how to promote it, and, in her spare time, produces Authors Articulating a half hour live interview/call-in show on BlogTalkRadio, where she discusses promotional and writing topics, and founded several blog and web sites.
Working on her blog site, Conquer All Obstacles, Jo-Anne indulged her life-long desire to help others by posting what she’d learned about book promotion. Before long, writers who recognized her expertise started hiring her. The demand for Jo-Anne’s marketing and promotional services grew rapidly.
As a result Premium Promotional Services was born, where authors can find every service necessary for promoting their books, or hire just one of those services. Laurus Books also just released Premium Promotional Tips for Writers, because “books need readers, and stores need shoppers. The only way to get them is by promoting and marketing.”
Aggie: Jo-Anne, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and spirit with us. So what’s your secret? Why, when you have such low physical energy, are you perceived as a dynamo? And it’s not a nervous energy; it’s the positive energy that always ends up making those around you feel, possibly, even better than you do.
JO-ANNE: Energy Time Management (ETM)…just made that up now…the term I mean. My health comes first. Since I got sick, everything I plan to do in the day feeds and nourishes my well being. The mental wellbeing, like exercise to the body, my business, social networking, and writing all exercises my brain to keep it sharp. I notice if I don’t challenge myself mentally for a few days, my memory is soggy, and takes awhile to strengthen again. Something like when I don’t exercise for awhile. I pay-for-it!
Aggie: With your degree in Education, English Literature major, and 20-year teaching career, it’s not surprising to learn you have such a desire to help others. When did you know you wanted to teach? Or was there a certain event that prompted the desire?
JO-ANNE: I knew I wanted to teach when I was in grade three. I had this fabulous teacher, Betty Mills (whom now substitutes at Rocanville, Sask. School). She was the most helpful, positive, and caring person I’d ever met. I looked-up to her and knew that Betty was the kind of person I wanted to be.
To affirm the decision to be a teacher, I went into swimming lessons and climbed the ladder to the top. At an early age of 15, I became a swimming instructor and even advanced to teaching others to become teachers. It was just a good thing those kids didn’t know how old I really was, or they would have never listened to me.
I loved teaching. I loved the kids…they respected me as I respected them.
Aggie: I know I’ve covered the why of your launch into a brand new career, but why writing? And please tell us a little about that unpublished first book that was so healing for you.
JO-ANNE: I always wanted to write a book but figured I never had time. In April of 2006, after the doctor had told me that I was to go home from the classroom, I was devastated and felt totally lost. Because of my severe depression and anxiety attacks I was being counseled. At that time, I was so badly disabled, I couldn’t even drive. The councilor would drive 2 1/2hrs to my home and talk with me.
At one of her first sessions, this councilor asked me what I would like to do while at home. At first I was speechless, and then suddenly it was like a light bulb lit up a dark room (I’m sure my eyes shone). I told her that I’d always wanted to write a book but had never the time. Well, she smacked her legs and chuckled while telling me that now I had the time.
The unpublished first book called On Guard was a healing book for me. Mentally, I had a lot of unresolved issues, personal issues that had happened in my past. While writing this first book, I had a villain who I wanted to kill after the first chapter; guess I had built-up anger and resentments going on…lol.
But ironically, instead of this villain dying (like I’d planned in my head) his character grew. As the story progressed, I even began feeling sorry for him…to the extent where in real-life I forgave this person who had done such harm to me. By the end of the book, this villain actually became the hero and saved the heroine just before self-sacrificing his own life to prove his love for her.
Aggie: Bravo! When you felt ready for publication, why is suspense/thriller/romance the genre you chose? Or did it choose you?
JO-ANNE: I love reading and watching TV shows/movies that are suspense thriller romance. I wrote my passionate genre and what I’m use to reading.
Aggie: And then, after your blogs became so successful with post about promoting your books, writers clamored for your promotional services, and you founded Premium Promotional Services, where your motto is “You Write – We Promote.” Can you sum up for us what your company does for writers?
JO-ANNE: At Premium Promotional Services we offer marketing services for writers. Depending on their individual needs, we work together to generate or design a marketing plan or solution.
Because we are authors, we understand the struggles of limited time and the desire to remain in our writing mode. There was a need for expertise in the promotional field, and for someone to take over this time consuming task of marketing for the author. Premium Promotional Services offers many individual services and many clients purchase a bundle of services to reach their marketing goals. Today, our services include: Site Creation, Author Advertising, Special Author Fan Pages, Book Title Promotion, Author Interviews, Site Redesign and Professional Book Trailers.
Aggie: How hard was it for you to learn the book promotion trade on your own? Did you have any help at all?
JO-ANNE: I had tons of help, and way too many professionals to mention. Book promotion is a passion of mine which I soak in like a dry sponge in water. I read like crazy and ask questions. I seek experts in the field of book promotion and digest their information with the ability to apply the knowledge of today’s writer. I know what works and what doesn’t because I try it myself, and I don’t share unless I know it’s a done-deal.
Aggie: Premium Promotional Services offers so many services, including your new bookstore, it can be overwhelming. Could you give readers a step-by-step? Say I just finished my book. What is the first step I would take with your company? Second, etc.?
JO-ANNE: First…and foremost, do not wait until you’re finished writing the book to start promoting. A writer needs to start building their author platform when they start thinking about writing a book. The sooner the better.
So say a writer knows the importance of promoting, but doesn’t have the time or expertise in the marketing field so they want to take steps with Premium Promotional Services, here’s what they do:
1.) Check out the Premium Promotional Services site and see which service or group of services you feel would help you promote you and your book(s).
2.) Once you have a vague idea, contact me (there’s a contact link right on the site) or click this link:
3.) I ask the client to leave their phone number, where they live (so I can work out the time difference), and when would the best time to call.
4.) I call the client and we talk. We really chat about what they want. Together, we design a marketing or promotional package they want.
5.) Then the client gets to go back to writing or whatever, leaving their worries behind as we, at Premium Promotional Services, get busy with their purchased service(s).
Aggie: With your all-in-one services you even provide book trailer creation by an award winning Hollywood screenwriter Misty Taggart. The price isn’t minimal. How important is it to have a trailer? How important to have a trailer made by Misty?
JO-ANNE: Very good questions…and I’m sure Misty would be more than happy to answer them for you. She’s fabulous and enjoys talking with interested clients. Again, she’s here for the client, so I do encourage anyone interested to contact her at: email@example.com
If you want to get attention, I guarantee, you will not be disappointed with the results once Misty addresses your book. She’s professional and basically you get what you pay for. YouTube is one of the top 3 social media sites where traffic is the highest. So if you want attention and show professional results, the money is well worth the investment in this marketing tool.
Aggie: We all know that writers don’t have a lot of money to invest in promotion. Nor do we have the time it takes to learn how to do it ourselves. Is this why you wrote Premium Promotional Tips for Writers?
JO-ANNE: No. >Jo chuckles< I wrote Premium Promotional Tips for Writers because I had all this information about marketing that I wanted to share the wealth of knowledge with others. I guess it goes back to my teaching…I love helping others.
Aggie: What do you think is the most important aspect of gaining a promotional internet presence?
JO-ANNE: Building relationships.
Aggie: After reading your book we are ready to begin promoting ourselves. Yet, all the many promotional tasks you teach us to accomplish seems like they will take almost as much time as it would for us to learn as we go. How much time do you believe we will save by reading Premium Promotional Tips for Writers? How long did it take you to learn what you teach us?
JO-ANNE: Uuuummm…don’t think we want to compare apples to oranges here. It took me a huge amount of time to learn what I’m teaching others in the book, Premium Promotional Tips for Writers. But I didn’t see this time as work because it’s a passion of mine.
To get the most out of my book, the viewer should read it from front to back and then to go back into the various topics (creating massive exposure, building an author platform, targeting an audience, driving traffic, social networking, and blogging) and use the gathered information as a checklist.
Ask yourself what you’re doing now and what you could do to improve your marketing strategies. Sort of like take what you want and leave the rest. Not everything has to be done or checked-off. The reader must ask themselves what could work for them in an attainable goal. Since there’s so much information in this book, the reader can pick and choose what they are comfortable doing.
Comments from others who’ve read Premium Promotional Tips for Writers felt this book was more than a resource; they have said the book is inspirational, giving them the courage to try new marketing strategies that (in the past) they had felt too difficult. With a glossary in the back, others have been thankful for the added direction.
Reading many of the tips in this book can save you an enormous amount of time. For example, if you’re spending your valuable time not writing and promoting to the wrong audience, all will be for naught. So, by learning who your targeting audience is and how to connect with them, the tips in this book will save you tons of time and energy that would have been otherwise wasted.
Aggie: How much time do you spend on your own daily promotional tasks? Not the entire setting up of your platform, but just maintain and expanding it.
JO-ANNE: I’d say one third of my working day is spent on my own promotional tasks.
Aggie: In the book, do you teach us how to do for ourselves all of the same services you offer at Premium Promotional Services? Or are there some things we just have to outsource?
JO-ANNE: I’m not sure I can compare the marketing strategies in the book to my business at Premium Promotional Services. I have had to acquire the knowledge (all that I’ve written in the book) to do my job, but I don’t think if someone was to digest the entire book that they could do the services provided at Premium Promotional Services.
Aggie: Jo-Anne, what is the most helpful thing about promotion you’ve learned along the way?
JO-ANNE: Be patient and persevere. Results do not happen overnight. Yet; like a snowball rolling down a steep hill, once the ball gets rolling, it’s totally amazing to see the results.
Aggie: Jo-Anne, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your time and expertise with us. If readers could thank you right now you’d hear a roar.
JO-ANNE: You’re more than welcome, Aggie. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share a little bit more about me, my business at Premium Promotional Services, and my latest release Premium Promotional Tips for Writers.
To read more about Aggie Villanueva and Visual Arts Juction, click HERE.
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