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Welcome to Season 5 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. 

In the first episode of Season 5, Becky talks to Sarah Fay—private Substack consultant, award-winning author at HarperCollins, and a member of the faculty at Northwestern University. Listen as Sarah discusses her personal journey through the mental health system and her decision to share her stories through writing. She also talks about her experience with landing a book deal, how she discovered Substack, and how impactful the platform has been for her writing career.  

Key Points From This Episode:

[01:17] Sarah shares about herself and her work in the world. 

[03:39] Sarah discusses her cats and the life changes that helped her recover. 

[06:05] Find out what inspired Sarah to share about her mental health journey in such an open way.

[13:15] Sarah talks about how she landed her first book deal and the motivation behind writing her memoir, Pathological

[19:08] Sarah shares some of the expectations vs. reality of selling a book. 

[24:30] How did Sarah build an online audience prior to the release of her first book? She reveals the approaches she took. 

[28:53] (AD) Learn about our Book Marketing Strategy Live Course.

[30:27] Sarah talks about her decision to serialize her second book, Cured, using Substack and explains the concept of serialization.

[37:07] Sarah explains why she also released a serialized audio version of Cured

[40:32] Sarah addresses some of the controversy surrounding Substack and explains why she loves the platform. 

[48:47] Hear about Sarah’s journey with Substack and how much money a typical writer might expect to make on the platform. 

[54:22] Sarah shares her best tips for people who want to show up in a more authentic way with their personal stories. 

Action Steps:

  1. Investigate Substack and subscribe to Sarah’s Substack pages: Substack Writers at Work and Cured
  2. Start thinking about writing for readers on Substack. Consider how you can show up on the platform and the stories you have to share with readers.


Key Quotes:

What’s beautiful about writing a book is I was in control. I got to decide how much I shared, and I was very open about my experience. —Sarah Fay

It’s not that I’m against diagnoses, but it felt like I’d lost 25 years of my life. I believed so much in them that I identified as them. —Sarah Fay 

I’ve always been obsessed with punctuation. I love it. I think it is a writer’s greatest tool. It’s a second way of communicating. It’s like hand gestures and facial expressions with words. We get to say so much in a comma and in a dash, and that has always interested me. —Sarah Fay

Yes, I got a six-figure book deal. Yes, I had the dream come true. I had what every author wants, but I had no idea what to expect when the book came out and how hard it is to sell a book. —Sarah Fay

I believe that platforms, ultimately, are a reflection of the people who run them. —Sarah Fay

By having my book out there, by telling my story, I’m showing that I’m not ashamed. —Sarah Fay

Just know that you’re so much more interesting and so much more talented than you think you are. —Sarah Fay

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Read our latest article based on key takeaways from this episode. 

Explore our archives! Listen to Becky’s five favorite episodes:

  1. Episode 125 with Michael Bungay Stanier
  2. Episode 121 with Juliet Starrett
  3. Episode 112 with Clint Pulver 
  4. Episode 108 with  AJ Harper
  5. Episode 106 with Jane Friedman