Rebecca’s first Western Reserve Writers’ Conference at Cuyahoga County Public Library was the best iteration in 38 years—and Eryka Parker, who runs Legacy Book Coaching & Consulting, agrees. It’s where the two met six years ago, and they’ve been friends ever since.
Eryka has coached dozens of authors through Legacy Book Coaching & Consulting, so it was high time to write her own book. Eryka’s debut novel, Beauty Beheld, was just launched on March 23rd of this year. Rebecca sat down with her to get more details on the soon-to-be series as well as her advice for aspiring and side hustle entrepreneurs.
How did you decide to become a book coach?
I’m an avid reader, and I noticed that in some of the independently-published books, there were lots of errors, which made me sad. Since I do love to read so much, I felt like, “Wow, these people really deserve to have pride in their work.”
So I reached out to an independent publishing company and asked them if I could come on as an editor. I set my prices really low because I wanted to give people who normally wouldn’t have access to—or the ability to—hire an editor that type of experience.
When I started my first business, Lyrical Innovations, I was helping more with developing content—co-writing in a way. After five years or so, I set my sights on book coaching. I signed up for a certification program, which was so eye-opening for me. I thought I was already doing everything I needed to do. But it was more holistic. It was everything I wanted to do with my clients but wasn’t trained to do. Now, I help authors through the pre-marketing phase to write query letters all the way through tapping into my personal experience with book marketing.
We all have stories to tell, and I’m all about offering people the support to do that successfully—to create something they can be proud of.
You and I have talked a lot about the importance of stories, how if one person hears a story and it impacts them, that means the world. I’m curious to hear your advice on how people can not only start writing but also continue to write.
Someone out there definitely needs to hear your story. So if I’m working with someone who wants to write, I first figure out what they want to write. If you’re looking to tell your personal story, focus on what makes you stand out. There are millions of people who have done the same thing that you’ve done and face the same challenges and have the same experiences. This has to be your take on it: your attitude, your mindset, your life experiences, your choices.
Focus on the part of fiction that’s tied to who you are. A lot of the time, your main characters have little pieces of you in them. And sometimes if you have to catch an “L” in real life, your main character can catch that “W” for you in your book. They can say what you didn’t have the guts to say or do what you didn’t have the guts to do. In basing them off of real people and real circumstances, your readers are going to be engaged. They’re going to drink it up because they see parts of themselves in your characters, and they’re already going to be invested in them winning and being able to to combat whatever they’re facing.
Speaking of fiction, you just published a book! I know you use a pen name, so tell me a little bit about that as well as a synopsis of your debut novel.
I write under a pen name because I feel that, in trying to be sensitive to others, we’re sometimes restricted when it comes to self-expression. You don’t want to trigger people or hurt their feelings, but you also want authentic storytelling to take place. I go by Zariah L. Banks because she tells her truth to ensure that those who have experienced similar hardships can identify with her content. The first novel in my contemporary women’s fiction series, “Beauty is Her Name,” is Beauty Beheld.
It’s casual storytelling, which I really like—kind of like the Seinfeld of book writing. It’s just everyday life. No one’s getting kidnapped and held for ransom. No one’s a billionaire or anything like that. But it’s two people who are coming from personal and relationship trauma, and they trust themselves enough to be open to finding love despite their glaring flaws. And the journey just unfolds from there.
What was the editing process like for your book?
I was nervous because my book has language and spice, and my developmental editor is religious. But she read it, and she was like, “Girl, I loved it.”
We box ourselves in and think, “Oh, these people aren’t going to like it. These people aren’t going to be into it.” But she was into it. We watch movies and shows that explore real life issues, and we’re not offended because it’s entertainment.
It’s a great reminder for all writers that even pros need help, too. So even if you’ve been doing this forever, there are things you can’t catch on your own.
Absolutely. An editor needs an editor, and a coach needs a coach. When I’m actively coaching clients, I have a business coach. When I want to get my projects out into the world, I get them edited. I’m not going to be able to see a missing word or a repeated word or a missing comma or period in my own work. I’m too close to it. So I think that getting a fresh pair of eyes is mandatory.
The suggestions that she had for my book were next level. So I just knew I needed to invest in myself. You also played a vital role in my editing process.
The worst thing that could happen is for you to publish your book and then get reviews that say, “I really wish that they would’ve gotten this edited.” Then you have to take it down and make changes. That’s costing more time and money when you could have just paid someone to do it in the first place.
And we only have so much creative capacity. I know this is a total 180 from the conversation that we were just having, but what’s your experience like as a mother who writes?
Motherhood, for me, has been the best years of my life. I love it. My little munchkins are everything to me. But what I found is that you have to learn how to preserve your personal identity. If I were only focusing on my children and what they need but never taking time for my lifelong dreams, there could be resentment there. And they don’t deserve that. They deserve—and you deserve—to see you at your happiest.
So, clear boundaries have to be in place. “Hey, mommy’s going to the library for a couple hours to work on something.” Or, “I’m going to the spa or going out with friends.” And when I come back, I’m so much better for them because I’m not tired and feeling undervalued.
Another thing that I like to do is incorporate my hobbies and my responsibilities with my children. So if I know that I need some time with my kids but the dishes and laundry are piling up, we just make it into a game. Then afterwards, we’ll bake brownies, so they’ll help me because they want us to finish chores faster. It’s quality time, and I’m teaching them how to build skills that they’ll need in adulthood.
You can’t have it all, and there’s no such thing as multitasking, but you can find a way to carve out the time and be purposeful with it.
Yes, and since there’s no such thing as multitasking, if you can’t get it done, you need to have backup plans in place. That’s especially true when it comes to business. You’ve had your business both as a full-time entrepreneur and as a side hustle. Since you’ve done both, what advice do you have for someone considering going off on their own?
Have an exit strategy! A lot of my clients want to start a business. So what I always tell them is that if you want to do this and never have to go back, you have to be able to phase things out. Start your business and wait until it’s consistently bringing in enough money to cover your expenses. Then make sure you’re accounting for taxes. Deduct that tax money out of what you’re bringing in because you don’t want to be in a bad situation where you can’t pay your bills.
Paying taxes quarterly is something I learned from being a business owner. I used to wait until tax time but if I paid it quarterly, then it was out of the way. And it’s not just sitting there making me nervous.
Make sure you’re able to cover your basic living expenses for three to six months before you leave a full-time job. Have a customer pipeline going because, at any given time, one of those people or all of those people can say, “Hey, this isn’t working out. It’s not in my budget. I hit a really dry patch, and I’m no longer able to work with you.” They might come back, but they might not. So have a waiting list, take a small deposit so you can hold time for them, and work with them in a couple months when you have the capacity.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to be an entrepreneur. But you do have to be business-minded, and you do have to know that having a consistent client base isn’t guaranteed.
And you have to recognize that you’re never going to know everything.
Exactly. You will never reach a level where you don’t have to get coaching or you don’t need advice. We’re always going to be students of the craft. Remember your passion while you’re doing it, and let that lead you. That’s what’s going to get you out of bed in the morning. That’s going to get you excited to work with that new person, to grow your business, and to do amazing things.
I keep a little brag book, so when I’m getting imposter syndrome, I look at it. There’s nothing like a client telling you what you mean to them to get that mojo going. When you go above and beyond, they notice that. You may think that they don’t, but they really do.
This series seeks to get to know our collaborators (our awesome clients) and our partners (people we refer to help our collaborators with projects that aren’t our specialty)! You can read all of our partner spotlights by clicking here.