“How to write a book that sparks a movement”, with Michele PW
You will be tested. There will be days (likely many of them) where you don’t feel like writing. Or showing up. Or like anyone is listening. Or cares. You might question who you are to do any of it.
As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Michele PW (Pariza Wacek), a best-selling, award-winning author who writes both fiction and nonfiction. On the fiction side, she pens psychological thriller/mystery/suspense books and authors a popular book and entertainment blog. On the nonfiction side, she’s written five books that comprise her “Love-Based Business Series,” which shares how to build a solid, profitable business on a foundation of love. In addition, she owns a copywriting and marketing company that has sold $50M worth of products and services over the past eight years. For more, check out MichelePW.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?
When I was three years old, I taught myself to read because I wanted to write stories so badly.
As you can imagine, writing has been a driving force my entire life. I write fiction and nonfiction; I’m a blogger and a copywriter (specializing in promotional, advertising, and marketing copy). I’ve loved being able to spend my life mastering as many forms of writing as I possibly could.
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story?
As a child, I was a voracious (mostly fiction) reader. I’d say I was inspired by ALL the books I read, because even at an early age, I read on two levels: first, for enjoyment (as someone who loves books and loves to read). And second, as a writer, to understand the craft of creating plots, characters, sentence structure, word choice, etc.
Because I read so early, I started reading adult books when I was still pretty young. Stephen King’s “The Shining” was one such book I read when I was about 10 or 11. I can also remember being a little confused by some of the themes back then and needing to reread it when I was older to fully grasp all the nuances, but looking back, I think that was actually a good thing. Rereading those books gave me a chance to focus on more on the craft of writing, which helped me improve my skills.
What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I quit my job to become a freelance copywriter in 1998. Around 2004, I decided to branch out, so I began looking online for projects. That was when I discovered the “information marketing” and “transformation/personal development” industries. (These two industries would end up being dominated by coaches and healers.)
I started specializing in direct response copywriting — copy that is designed to get people to respond. (For example, you know those emails where you click a link to a longer page, or those long online sales letters, where you’re scrolling down forever trying to find the price and wondering if anyone reads them? That’s direct response copywriting.)
Many of my clients and colleagues, who were mostly coaches and healers at the time, asked me to find a way to write copy that still persuades people to buy from them, but didn’t make them feel icky or sales-y (the way traditional direct response copywriting often does).
My initial response to refuse — there were lots of excellent copywriting books and training available, I told them. I didn’t need to clutter the market.
However, even though I didn’t feel like I was qualified to write a book at that point, I was still intrigued by what they were asking. I began to research and test ways to write persuasive copy that didn’t sound inauthentic to my clients and would still get results.
Fast forward to 2015. A good friend of mine wrote a free book (more like a report) called “Love-Based Marketing.” I looked at that and thought, “Love-based copy.” The opposite of that? Fear-based copy.
And that’s when it happened: the entire philosophy for love-based copy downloaded into me. In fact, it was so clear, I could feel it physically as it happened.
And that’s when I knew I had to write the book I had been resisting — and it had to be about love-based copy.
What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book?
I wanted entrepreneurs and business owners to realize they have a choice when it comes to marketing their business. They can choose to persuade using traditional fear-based tactics, or they can choose to persuade using love. And, if they choose love, my book would walk them through how to do it.
I’ve since come out with a second edition of that initial book that further refines my philosophy, and four other books that now comprise my Love-Based Business series.
Did the actual results align with your expectations? Can you explain?
Within six months of the download I described above, I released the first version of Love-Based Copy. The title wasn’t great, and the cover was awful, but it was out in the world.
And I got a huge, wonderful, nearly overwhelming response.
Thousands of people downloaded and read it and told me how relieved my book made them feel. I was invited to be a guest on multiple podcasts and to speak on stages.
Entrepreneurs everywhere were recognizing that this was the missing link in their marketing training, and they were eager to jump in and learn more.
What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? Please share a story.
I think that moment for me was the first time I received an email from a person on my list. She was having trouble downloading it, so initially when she reached out, she was upset with me and thought I was pulling a “fast one” on her.
My team worked it out with her, and she got her copy.
A week or so later, she reached out and told me she had already read it twice and written a review of it on her blog. She said I had given her so much relief and peace in her life.
That’s when I had realized I was really on to something.
Since then, it’s continued to grow, and now I see references all the time to love-based copy, love-based marketing, fear-based marketing, etc.
What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers? What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different?
Initially, what I heard from my readers was a lot of relief. For so many years, entrepreneurs were told they only had two choices: either use direct response copy that sounded sales-y and hype-y … or simply accept that they would never build anything bigger than a “hobby” business.
My message was that you actually have a third choice — you can use love-based copy, instead.
Now that it’s been a few years, I don’t hear that message as much. Instead, I hear how much people love the philosophy and teachings (and I love that!).
What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? Can you share a story?
Probably the story I shared above about when I first realized I was on to something. The sheer fact that I was writing a book about copywriting, of all things, and hearing how it changed people’s lives was so gratifying.
Have you experienced anything negative? Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change?
There have been a few reviews that have been brutal. They were clearly misunderstanding the point of my book and my teachings, probably because they found it triggering.
You do need to develop a thick skin as an author, because people are going to project and willfully misunderstand your message. Just know they aren’t your peeps (or, at least, not yet … maybe in time, they’ll come along).
Remember, everyone is on his or her own path. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept people wherever they are, and don’t get all bent out of shape if their feedback is not what you want to hear.
Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?
I think it’s because books are spacious enough that we can present a complete and thoughtful perspective. Plus, books allow us to settle in with our thoughts, mulling ideas over in our own way and time.
People also seem to take more time and energy with books, so the finished product is more polished than, say, an online course. Most online video (or even audio) courses are recordings of an instructor simply referring to an outline and/or slides. While there is nothing wrong with that, there’s no place for editing or considering word choices, so it’s never going to be as thoughtful or as complete as a book.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
Committing to a 15-minute per day writing habit. I first read about this concept in Samantha Bennett’s book, “Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day.”
To me, it’s very important to write every day. If you skip a day, even one, it takes you longer to get back into “the writing space.” So, committing to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day on my book was a gamechanger.
Now, I know a lot of you are probably thinking, “There’s no way I can write a whole book in only 15 minutes a day!” I thought that too, until I actually tried it.
First off, you can get more done in 15 minutes than you might imagine. And, second, you’re spending a MINIMUM of 15 minutes a day. If you decide to go longer, then by all means, keep going.
The idea is even on the bad days, you still spend 15 minutes on your book.
This concept can literally change your life.
What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? Can you share the lesson(s) that you learned?
There have been soooo many lessons, but probably one of the biggest was around my first fiction novel.
I had just launched it, and I submitted it to Kirkus Reviews. I had gotten great feedback from many of my beta readers already, so even though I knew the book had some issues (what first novel doesn’t?), I also assumed that, overall, it would receive a positive review.
So you can imagine my shock when the reviewer hated it.
Nothing redeeming at all.
I burst into tears.
I was completely mortified. Kirkus bills itself as a professional service whose reviews indicate how the book will do in the marketplace. Based on that awful review, my book was going to crash and burn.
I considered canceling my launch and unpublishing my book.
Luckily, I have good friends who talked me out of that extreme response. I decided to go ahead with my plans to promote it.
That book, The Stolen Twin, ended up becoming a bestseller, hitting #1 in Teens and Young Adults (the whole category) on Amazon. Amazon even featured it.
What that experience taught me was not to fear bad reviews (see question above about developing a thick skin.). I’m actually glad it happened, because now, bad reviews don’t bother me.
When I’m writing and editing the book, that’s when I need to focus on making sure it’s the best it can be. But, once I publish it, it’s time to let go.
Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book? (please include a story or example for each)
1. Focus on finding a solution to a problem, rather than starting a movement. Honestly, I didn’t set out to start a movement. I set out to solve a problem people kept telling me they had (i.e. how to write copy that still gets results without feeling so icky). But, because that was such a deep and pervasive problem, it ended up starting a movement.
One challenge I see is people wanting to start a movement more to feed their ego than to fix an actual problem. If you’re saying things like, “I want to be a female Tony Robbins,” you are being driven by your ego. I can promise you that no one is out there thinking, “Geez, I love Tony’s teachings; I just wish I could go listen to a woman instead of him.” (Well, maybe a few people ARE saying It, but I can guarantee that even the people who do think that are not stressing themselves out or keeping themselves up at night over that “problem.”)
Another way to know what’s driving you is if you find yourself using the words “me” or “my” a lot, or if you’re “redefining” someone else’s teachings to “make them your own” (for instance, giving something a different name or packaging it up differently). Anything like that is likely focused on your desire to feel more important by “starting a movement.”
2. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to start a movement. Look, everyone has different life experiences. Regardless of whatever it is that you’ve been put on this earth to teach, you will reach a specific set of people who can only hear that message from you.
And that’s extremely valuable.
The more pressure you put on yourself to start a movement, the more likely you’ll try and force something that was never meant to become a movement, and maybe even turn off the people you were meant to help in the first place.
If it’s meant to be bigger than you, then that’s what will happen. You don’t have to force it.
3. Put in the work. The flip side of not forcing your message to become a movement if it’s not meant to be is that it is by no means an excuse to sit on your couch binge watching Game of Thrones reruns, because it will just “happen.”
You have to show up and do the work.
The work is likely different for everyone, but I would venture to say that at least part of it involves sitting your butt down in front of your computer and writing every single day.
Without the book, the movement is going to be a lot more difficult (if not impossible) to get off the ground.
There will likely be other action steps required of you to get your message out there (like showing up for interviews and on stage), so you need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that appear.
4. The movement is bigger than you. One thing that was very clear to me from the beginning was the love-based copy philosophy was given to me as a gift. I could feel the philosophy downloading into me, whole and complete, and I knew right from that moment that it was bigger than me.
The Love-Based Copy Philosophy was a gift from God. I was simply the messenger.
Expertise or talent or skill is more about the individual.
A movement is ALWAYS bigger than the individual.
Now, all of that said, if this is what you want — if you feel your purpose is to start a movement, but you don’t know what your movement is supposed to be about — definitely ask. (God, the Universe, Source, whatever higher power you align with.)
You’ll get an answer no matter what (although it may not be the answer you want).
I had heard for years, long before I was ready, that I should be teaching love-based copy. I rejected it multiple times.
Until one day, I WAS ready. Even if I didn’t realize what I was asking.
5. You will be tested. There will be days (likely many of them) where you don’t feel like writing. Or showing up. Or like anyone is listening. Or cares. You might question who you are to do any of it.
That is all normal.
You’re stepping into something bigger than yourself, which means you WILL be triggered. Resistance, worries, fears, anger … it’s all going to come up.
And, at least for me, the easiest way to get through it is to surrender to what is while continuing to take action.
Feel the emotions. But don’t let them stop you.
Your movement is bigger than your emotions.
The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? Can you explain why that is so important?
I totally agree there’s a lot to be done! But I’m also of the opinion that none of us are alone in this work, and God (or whatever name you want to use) is with us. I trust whoever or whatever movement is meant to happen next, will happen, exactly the way it’s supposed to.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My main author website is MichelePW.com
Facebook — facebook.com/michelepwauthor
Twitter — Twitter.com/MichelePW
IG — Instagram.com/TheMichelePW
Pinterest — Pinterest.com/TheMichelePW
Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.