Get a dog so you can’t sleep in in the mornings (which is easy to do when you work for yourself) and so that you get enough fresh air and exercise throughout the day. And when the shizzle hits the fan from time to time, his adorable little face will put everything in perspective.
Laura Pepper Wu is a writer, independent author, and the co-founder of 30 Day Books, a book studio. She’s a Brit whose one-year adventure abroad turned into six years, four cities, and counting. She currently lives in Seattle, where she frequently walks her dog in the rain and drinks too much coffee.
What are you working on right now?
I work with independent (self-published) authors to help them reach new readers. I’m trying to do my bit to fill in the gaping hole that exists in the self publishing wave–book marketing and promotions. Traditionally the publishing houses would do this on behalf of authors, and authors could focus on what they do best: writing. But this is not so any more! Independent authors have to approach publishing their books like starting small businesses, and hence, they must learn how to market, promote and sell their books. A lot of “authorpreneurs” have been accidentally born as a result of this fact, and the authors who are successful are making a sustainable living from their books and related streams of income.
The latest product we (30 Day Books, which I co-founded with my husband) launched in order to assist self-published authors is Authorlicious–a WordPress theme-package that “teaches self-published authors how to fish.” Authorlicious is a WordPress theme that combines design with marketing, along with tutorials and instructions that show authors how to easily create, update and manage their author websites using WordPress. Author websites are an essential part of online book marketing and promotions, and this is a simple and affordable alternative to having an author website custom-made to successfully promote authors and their books.
Where did the idea for 30 Day Books and Authorlicious come from?
In regards to 30 Day Books, I have self-published three books over the last two years, and was surprised to find that writing them was actually the easy part (although I didn’t think so at the time)! The hard work came after, when I was learning how to market them and get the word out. I did, eventually, come to have some success and wanted to share what I learned along the way with other self-published authors. From my books and related services, I’m making a full-time living and am moving toward my ideal lifestyle. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for people to create jobs for themselves. And not everyone should have to learn by themselves when there is knowledge that can easily be passed on.
In regards to Authorlicious, once I realized how empowering and downright lovely it is to be able to update and control your own website and blog (without having to rely on your husband!), I wanted to show other authors that they could do it too. I would have put myself firmly in the “non-techie” camp before I realized that I didn’t have a choice but to learn all of this website/internet stuff myself in order to have any chance of succeeding in self-publishing. So I did, and one of the best things I did was to learn how to use WordPress.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up around 7:00(ish!) and do a yoga DVD or YouTube video. I shower, grab breakfast and settle down to email with coffee. I usually schedule calls and blogging in the morning, and then take my dog for a walk somewhere in the middle of that craziness. After lunch, I walk 20 minutes to a co-working space with my husband (Agnes Underground–it’s awesome!), and we work from there for the afternoon. Evenings involve either more light work, reading, or attending a startup event downtown. We have happy hour and dinner with friends at least one evening per week, and then have date night on another night!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually brainstorm with my husband over drinks, mull over the idea for a couple of days, and then dive straight in if my gut is still telling me that it’s a good idea. I’ve always been into getting my feet wet and learning how to swim as I go along–which is a blessing and a curse!
Diving in involves reading everything I can on the subject, reaching out to peers and other people in the space for advice, and a lot of trial and error. I’m a huge planner so I list things out, organize them by priority, and use Google calendar to plot the timeline from concept to fruition. For whatever reason, I wasn’t born with a fear of failure as I understand many people are. I’m not held back by that disabling feeling, and I imagine a lot of entrepreneurs might say the same about themselves.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’ll share two:
- Location-independent living. In other words, working from a laptop, on something you love, anywhere in the world.
- Micro-credit lending–loaning money to individuals around the world in order to pay for their education or help them start businesses. The two I know about are Kiva and Vittana. I believe both organizations have around a 99% repayment rate, and you can then re-invest that money in someone else. I find it mind-blowing that just a few hundred dollars–which you’re likely to get back–will help someone attend university/graduate school for two years and will then help them to support their whole family. Or it might get a business off the ground and go on to employ five people and support five families. It’s incredible!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
One summer when I was in high school, I waitressed at an American restaurant, called Fatty Arbuckles, in my small English hometown. The whole experience really put me off coming to America for a long time! The whole premise of the restaurant was giant portions, free refills (a rare find in England at the time) and disgusting eating challenges. If a customer was able to finish a half-pounder and fries, followed by a ginormous sundae and half a liter of coke, then we would have to take a polaroid picture of them and pin it to a wall of fame. What did I learn from it? Not to trust stereotypes. American food (at least on the West coast) is bloody fantastic! Also, I learned to never trust restaurant kitchens. The chef used to scrape tomato ketchup off of people’s plates and put it back in the bottles.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have moved to Seattle sooner! What a fabulous place to be, both in terms of lifestyle (it’s the best of both nature and city) and work opportunities. I absolutely love the startup scene here; it’s so supportive, energetic and bold. Apart from that, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Without sounding cliche, I learn from every good, bad and ugly day. (A glass of wine or three helps on those days.)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Grab coffee with people who are in your industry and outside of it, and get to know them as people, for no specific reason at all. Beneficial relationships are born as a side product of doing this, and Seattle is the perfect place to be for this reason. Coffee shops are waiting to be discovered on every corner, and I never met anyone here who isn’t up for exploring them!
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Living and working from home was a tough task in the beginning. In addition to getting cabin fever, I would fuse life and work tasks throughout the day (by taking a break from work to do the laundry or wash up). This wasn’t great for my mental space, productivity or sleep!
To overcome this problem I reorganized my day and had strict work time and home time, and even changed clothes to reflect each phase. I also made sure to get out of the house for a few hours each day for coffee, lunch or an event in the evening. Now that we live in the city, we use a co-working space most days, which has helped tremendously (plus it’s an great place to be, as everyone there is working on a cool idea or project). You definitely catch energy and excitement just being around young entrepreneurs.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
When I was in Taipei last year, I noticed a really cool system for getting around the city. You can hire a bike for a couple of hours and then leave it at one of the many stations that were around the city. You didn’t even have to return it to the same spot. Everything is automated, so the system has your credit card on file. I thought it was a wonderfully environmental system that should be implemented in more cities in the U.S. and Europe. Seattle would be the perfect place.
My second idea is car windows that roll up and not down. I could stay cool in this heatwave and not mess up my hair!
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Gosh, this is a tough question! I’m feeling pretty hurt and angry about the shootings that have happened this year involving innocent people. I hope that there is a big change in gun policy and weapon availability in the U.S. soon.
Tell us a secret.
I wish I had one to share. I’m an open book; it gets me into trouble.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Google Docs. For a somewhat organized person, I’m crappy at organizing my online files. Google docs let’s me keep everything “on the cloud,” and I’m also able to share everything easily with others. You can also access it from anywhere; it’s beautiful.
- Twitter/Twitter lists. This has allowed me to interact with people I would usually never get the chance to meet or introduce myself to. Like most people, it took a while for me to understand the value of sending out 140-character messages, but as soon as I “got it” I was hooked. I use Twitter lists to keep up-to-date with all the people whom I want to stay connected with and support.
- WordPress. Two years ago I didn’t know anything about updating and managing a website. I always thought that you had to be a computer science geek to work with websites. Luckily, WordPress does all the hard work for you, and now I feel confident designing and maintaining websites. I even know quite a bit of code. WordPress make an otherwise terrifying subject accessible and even, dare I say, sexy.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. That book gave me permission to have fun with the business–to take risks and trust my instincts. When the going gets tough at the Pepper Wu household, my husband and I have a joke that goes, “What would RB do?” Branson, or Richy, as I like to refer to him lovingly, has created his empire by taking enormous risks, believing in people, making others feel special, and always sticking to his guns. He trusts his gut reaction and puts fun above all else.
When you read his books or see an interview with him, you can see right away that “Richy’s” not afraid to make a fool out of himself and doesn’t take himself at all seriously. He’s also a philanthropist and has achieved that title with his wealth and status. I feel as though his charity work is severely under-appreciated. Reading his book made me feel calm (and yes, he does tell you how he lost his virginity. Hey, sex sells!).
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @MarieForleo shares business advice, inspiration and craziness. This lady is supreme.
- @GuyKawasaki. What a nice dude. He’s super smart too, and I love his recent posts on the publishing industry.
- @RichardBranson, because… yeah.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I gave myself a stitch from laughing yesterday when my dog peed on my left shoe–while I was wearing it. It all happened in such slow motion and I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. It was so gross, yet when I saw my husband bent over with laughter, I had to join in. We were howling on the pavement, with my dog just looking up at us with this confused look on his face.
Who is your hero?
My late grandfather. I’ll always remember his warmth and positive energy, as well as the way he connected with people.
Gives us an unusual productivity tip.
Get a dog so you can’t sleep in in the mornings (which is easy to do when you work for yourself) and so that you get enough fresh air and exercise throughout the day. And when the shizzle hits the fan from time to time, his adorable little face will put everything in perspective. Plus, dogs give the best cuddles in the world.
What’s your favorite book store in the world?
Eymundsson in Reykjavic, Iceland. Since it’s so darn cold in Iceland, they have optimized the environment so that you can stay in there for hours. That’s exactly what I did on my honeymoon.
Laura Pepper Wu on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/pepperwu
Laura Pepper Wu on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LauraPepWu
30 Day Books on Facebook: www.facebook.com/30daybooks
30 Day Books’ website: 30DayBooks.com