Analyst by day, book publisher and author by night
In this series, I’m going to discuss how you can find your creative outlet outside the 9–5, through interviews with individuals who are doing just that. I made this web series and as a creative coach to aspiring/amateur artists, I want to continue showcasing the stories of individuals who figured out how to make their artistic ambitions a reality. For tips on how to move from aspiring/amateur to a professional, visit amenjafri.com and sign up for my newsletter.
This is Amanda Bernardo.
She’s an Analyst at the Treasury Board Secretariat by day and by night the co-owner of Little Voice Books, as well as a children’s author. With each book sale, Little Voice Books donates a portion to charitable campaigns and movements.
What got her started
Amanda describes herself as being passionate about reading and writing from a young age. She always knew she wanted to incorporate this into a future career — the question was how.
Like most people, she started with a degree, studying English Literature and History at Carleton University, hoping to parlay it into a teaching career. It became quite clear to her early on that she wanted to do more than just teach. She took a different route and started working in public policy, while continuing her volunteer work with the Ottawa Network for Education, which paired professionals with elementary school students for reading.
While volunteering with the students, something clicked for Amanda. She noticed that after reading, there was “…little opportunity for discussion afterwards. There was no chance to impose wisdom or advice and no window to explore a child’s thoughts or feelings”, she said.
The reading would end fairly quickly and children would open themselves to her about their school day and the feelings and challenges they were experiencing.
Her company, Little Voice Books, was born in 2014 to “…create awareness and inspire the next generation of readers”, said Amanda. While initially she only wanted to publish a children’s book, she realized there was a need in the market for her idea and that pushed her to establish the company.
The road to authorship
Starting out, Amanda considered going to a large publishing company. She sent over several letters and manuscripts for consideration. However, her end goal was different than others in her intent to create a social awareness platform. With this in mind she decided to go the self-publishing route and her first thought was to Google how.
She researched what types of avenues were available to authors and evaluated the pros and cons. There are a lot of different options available to self-publishing authors, but Amanda had ambitions beyond putting out a book, so she broke down the process even further.
“To publish my book I first needed to find an illustrator to bring my words to life. I remembered seeing the portfolio for a local graphic designer on my LinkedIn and had contacted her to grab a coffee. Our coffee date eventually turned into a business partnership and we decided to venture on this journey together”, said Amanda.
It took a year to finalize the text, illustrations, formatting and establish a printing contract. They also partnered with a local printing company. Amanda’s first book, Little Voice, was published by the end of 2014, available online and in local Chapters locations.
Time spent outside the 9–5
Amanda manages everything from client relations, the e-commerce platform, social media and partnerships. Much of this can be done virtually, so she squeezes in the time during her daily commute, updating social media, reading emails and exploring opportunities for growth and expansion after dinner and then blogging before bed.
Amanda also packages and prepares books for shipping, sometimes heading to the post office every two days. On some weekends, she and her business partner host local book signings or volunteer with organizations supported by the company.
Overcoming technical challenges
One of the challenges Amanda’s company faces is expanding outside of Ottawa, as well as entering the market as an official publisher.
“One of the technical challenges related to this is distribution. Large distribution companies often want to work with established publishing companies with five or more titles. While some distribution companies do offer opportunities for small publishing companies such as ours, the costs of distribution are beyond our current budget, which once more poses a challenge to our growth”, said Amanda.
“While I have always had the dream of publishing my own book, I’ve also always had the fear of sharing my writing with others. Writing for me has always been something extremely personal. It has served as an outlet to share my thoughts and feelings, and ultimately a means to write what I could not say. With that in mind, when it came time to share my words with others, I hesitated. I feared feeling exposed, feeling judged, and feeling like I wasn’t good enough”, said Amanda.
Her first book started as a poem to herself, one that forced her to listen to her own inner voice, the one that encouraged her to chase her dreams and set aside the fears that held her back for so long.
Amanda’s second book, The Lighthouse, proved more challenging to write. It teaches children about mental health and she was acutely aware of the importance of the topic and the sensitivity required to address it. In order to manage this, she worked with mental health advocates.
Becoming an author also requires public speaking.
“While I have always been comfortable with speaking to audiences of any size, I suddenly had a frog in my throat when asked to speak about certain aspects of my publishing company; in particular, my fundraising and volunteer efforts in support of Alzheimers and mental health”, said Amanda.
No longer able to hide behind a pen and paper to address deeply personal topics, Amanda trained herself to push through, though the process was still no easier. At a June 2015 event, she brought together 150 women and in her opening remarks shared the story behind Little Voice Books.
“…I suddenly broke down, in tears, in front of 150 women. While I first felt betrayed by my emotions for having escaped me, I suddenly embraced them and realized that my pain is as much as part of my story, as any other aspect of my business. This very pain suddenly helped others understand the raison d’etre of my company and why it was so important for me to give back”, said Amanda.
Making time for it
Amanda’s go-tos are to-do lists. She also uses breaks and downtime and recognizes that there are some weekends where Little Voice has to take a backseat to other priorities.
“Managing a day job and a side hustle can be challenging and time consuming, but you have to find a routine that works best for you and that is flexible”, said Amanda. “Orders are something I always prioritize as we suddenly have a commitment with a reader to deliver our products, but I certainly find more flexibility in other aspects of the business to ensure that my own mental health is considered”.
She also tries to connect with her business partner once a month to outline their goals and priorities for the year.
· If you have a passion for something, but are unsure of how to incorporate it into your day-to-day, do not give up on it. Keep plugging away and you will find an opportunity to make it happen. It might not happen right away, but keep it in the back of your mind at all times.
· Self-publishing and taking the do-it-yourself route is a powerful means of taking your project into your own hands from the ground up. It does not make your project any less viable or legitimate than one coming from a traditional publisher. It also gives you an opportunity to move beyond what traditional media are able to offer.
· It’s ok to be open about your fears and vulnerabilities as a creator. Consider your ability to share this as a strength, rather than a potential weakness and detrimental to your ambitions.
· Budget time wisely towards your side hustle, but recognize that you are human and there will be days where you need to take a break — the work will still be there and will get done at the end of the day.
I hope you found this post useful. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips to share on managing a creative outlet outside of your day job and connect with me if you’d like to be featured in this series!