Once upon a time, Vicky Weber had a dream. She wanted to take the words, pictures, and ideas floating in her head and put them down in a book that children could enjoy worldwide. With hard work and determination, she was able to take that dream and transform it from a fairytale into a reality.
And she wanted to help others do the same thing, too. Now a successful children’s author, former teacher Vicky joined forces with Brittany Plumeri and Chelsea Tornetto to co-found At Home Author, a company that uses coaching to help aspiring writers realize their dreams and learn how to navigate the often-intimidating world of publishing.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Vicky about her journey. We discussed how she and her co-founders worked hard to fill a gap in the market, the importance of maintaining a work-life balance, and why choosing a good website builder is key to business success.
That’s when people started to ask me how I did it. As a teacher, I wanted to help others.
I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm, even from a young age. My family lived in a lower-income area so, in kindergarten, I was pushed into higher grade levels for my reading curriculum. My parents worked hard, so the summer before I was supposed to start second grade, we were able to move to an area with a better school district. I loved school and eventually, I went to college to become a teacher. I knew that not all children love learning the same way I did as a kid, so I wanted to inspire the younger generations and find ways to make learning fun for them.
But alongside my desire to inspire a love for learning, I’d always wanted to write a children’s book. There was a lot holding me back, though. Mostly, I didn’t think it was possible to do. I thought it was a pipedream or just wishful thinking. But one day, my husband helped me see that there was no reason I couldn’t – I just had to learn how.
So that’s exactly what I did!
I researched like crazy and learned so much. The problem was that the information online often conflicted. It was overwhelming and at times, paralyzing. It all left me so confused and, because of that, my first three books were a flop. Yes, you read that right. They were well-written and beautifully illustrated, but none of that mattered because I couldn’t get them in front of people. I didn’t know how.
To fix this, I started taking business classes and through a lot of trial and error, I finally cracked the code. My fourth book wasn’t just a success – it became a bestseller the same month it was published and I made five figures in profit.
I knew it wasn’t just a fluke. It was all down to a strategy, a system, that I’ve used to publish every book since.
That’s when people started to ask me how I did it. As a teacher, I wanted to help others achieve the same success, so I partnered with two other teachers-turned-children’s-book-authors and started At Home Author in January 2021. Through our courses and programs, we teach aspiring children’s book authors how to take their ideas and bring them to life!
When I first started trying to write and publish my own children’s books, all the information was so overwhelming, and often it conflicted. I was definitely confused and I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark. I didn’t want that for other people.
I suppose you could say that with At Home Author, I just fell into it. At the same time, though, we felt that it was a service that was so needed. Whenever someone discovers that I’m a children’s book author, nine times out of ten, they’ll ask me how I did it because they have a book idea themselves. Like me, they just thought it wasn’t a possibility. They didn’t know how to make it happen. I want to teach them how – the way I wish someone had taught me. People had questions and I wanted to answer them and help in any way I could. And here we are now!
You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but she’ll still find someone to teach, I suppose!
My husband actually came up with the name ‘At Home Author’. He made a joke during the pandemic that I was an at-home author and later, when we were looking for a business name, it seemed to fit. Most authors do work from home, after all!
Brittany, Chelsea, and I are all former teachers and moms. We’re big bookworms too, of course. We all have different personalities and while sometimes that can be interesting to navigate, it’s also what makes the company work. We fill in the gaps for each other so that our students get what they need from the right expert.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. My first two books were published in January and February of 2020, just before the pandemic hit. I was a full-time elementary school teacher at the time so all learning went virtual and there was this air of uncertainty. We never knew what would be changing or what was going to happen next.
Plus, as I said, my first three books weren’t a huge success. I had a plan for my first one – release it and not tell anyone about it! As you can guess, that didn’t go so well. I tried maybe one or two marketing techniques for the second and third, but they weren’t as effective as I wanted them to be. I had no idea what SEO was or how it could help me as an author. It wasn’t until my fourth book when I actually created a business plan, that I started to see results.
So, it wasn’t easy, but there were perks. I liked working from home. For the first time in a career setting, I was able to take my full lunch break and use the restroom when I needed! I didn’t have kids yet so I spent my free time working on my books and after becoming a bestselling author, I also spent time hosting webinars and answering aspiring author’s questions. I gave birth to my daughter in April of 2021, which is when I finally left teaching to enter the publishing world full-time.
While I did love being a teacher (I wouldn’t trade my years in education for anything!) COVID and becoming a mother changed a lot for me. I’d finally been published and was making a steady side income from being a children’s book author but when my daughter was born, I wanted to spend more time with her than I’d be able to if I stayed in teaching. So I left the classroom to write full-time, and I did coaching through At Home Author on the side. It completely changed my life and now, I have a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, with flexibility that I’ve never had before.
If, like Vicky, you’ve ever been confused by SEO, check out our resources and top tips on search engine optimization:
The coaches of At Home Author are all former teachers. We pride ourselves on providing content that is easy to understand, no matter where you’re at in the writing and publishing process.
We used to offer individual coaching but have now switched to group coaching instead. When you join the Profitable Picture Books program, you have access to a self-paced course and recurring monthly coaching calls so that you can ask questions, get feedback, and learn for as long as you’re enrolled.
Coaching calls are meant to give more customized support. They’re an opportunity to get peer and expert comments on a book you’re writing or suggestions for how to improve your marketing plan. Our authors are all in different places in their writing journey so the live calls are to make sure you get the support that you need.
We’re also the only company that teaches our authors about traditional and self-publishing. Other companies focus on one or the other, but I’ve found that no matter which route you end up choosing, understanding the industry as a whole will make you a stronger writer and author.
But there’s more than just our coaching courses that make At Home Author special. We also offer a free Youtube channel. It started as a way for me to create answers to frequently asked questions so I wouldn’t need to repeat myself as often. I could just send people the link to the video when they asked about that subject. It quickly evolved and became a source of traffic for our programs and services, though, which is incredible! It’s almost like a taste of our coaching programs for free!
Honestly, every time I get a message from a student with a picture of them holding their published book, it’s the highlight of my week.
We’ve always offered the answers but the format has grown and changed over time. I used to do a lot more individual coaching, which I loved, but there were only so many hours in my day. That’s why we switched to group coaching instead and I love it even more because my students also get to learn from each other. It’s a supportive community! If anyone is looking to publish a children’s book, I highly recommend you look into the Profitable Picture Books program.
If you’re planning on creating your own writer’s website, why not take a look at some writer website examples to get the inspiration flowing?
The best part about being an author and a publishing coach is that no two days look alike. Some days, I’m able to start late or take a long lunch. Some days, I clean my house! But usually, I write for a half hour or so in the morning. I take care of my duties as a coach, and then I brainstorm more writing ideas over lunch. In the afternoon, my kids come home and then I focus my attention completely on my family. My children go to daycare part-time for the socialization so I get less done on the days that they’re home but I love every moment of my time with them.
Basically…every day is a new adventure and I’m the one at the helm!
You have to create boundaries for yourself. It’s hard but you need to commit to whatever you’re doing with 100% of yourself. When you’re with your family, you can’t be giving 40% or 50%. They need you completely present. You need you completely present! So you have to take a look at what you’re doing (or not doing) and set time limits for yourself.
It doesn’t matter how long you’re able to set aside for writing or working on your business, it just matters that you show up consistently with everything you’ve got. And then when you’re off the clock, you’re giving all that effort to your family and your personal life.
The best parts about my job are getting the chance to be creative, whilst also enjoying a flexible working life. I’m in charge of what my own day looks like and it’s a good feeling. Even just knowing that I can take the day off last minute when my kids are sick without issues is a relief in itself!
Every business needs a website. It’s a place where others can learn about what you do, and how to get in touch with you. Plus, it adds a layer of professionalism. It also makes it easier for potential clients to find you. If someone is searching your name or looking for someone who does what you do, the first place they’re going to search is through a search engine like Google. Simply having a website makes getting sales and business that much easier, even for authors!
Before you do anything, though, you need to decide on your branding. This will impact your domain name, what your website design will look like, and much more. You also want to make sure that the platform you’re building your website on is one you like. Moving your website later is doable but it’s a pain so do your research ahead of time to figure out what features are important to you.
We decided to use Wix, and I’m so glad we did. There’s so much I love about it! It’s easy to navigate and makes it simple to optimize your website for search engines. On the rare occasion that an issue comes up, support is always pleasant and the problem is resolved quickly. The drag-and-drop editor makes the design part simple – something I’ve struggled with on other website-building platforms. And I’m a usually very tech-savvy person!
I absolutely feel like I can scale my business with Wix. It’s been an invaluable tool that’s constantly evolving. If you’d asked me a few years ago, I might have said that there were a few features missing from Wix’s offering, but it’s always growing and expanding, developing new tools that are vital for running a business online.
If you’re considering building a website with Wix, make sure to read our Wix Review for a deep dive into the pros and cons of this website builder.
The future? Oh, I always have some new ideas in mind! I’m releasing a book on SEO for authors in just a few months so that other writers can skip the SEO mistakes I made with my website. The Profitable Picture Books program is also going through some exciting updates, and I have more picture books in the works!
Maybe it’s the teacher in me but I’m a firm believer that you’re never done learning. Even with all the success I’ve had, I’m always looking for ways I can improve, new things I can try, and I share all that new knowledge with my students too.
Learn as much as you can. Even when you think you’ve got it down, there’s still more to learn. There are scams out there that prey on aspiring writers and the best way to avoid them is to research how the industry actually works and surround yourself with a support system to help you keep moving forward.
In both my writing business and At Home Author, if I could do it all over again, I’d start with more research and a stronger plan. While I learned a lot in my journey, I think I would have found success a lot faster and wasted less time and money if I had either hired a coach or taken courses from the start.
If I had to give one last piece of advice, it would be that above all else, you have to believe that your dreams are possible and that you can achieve them. If you don’t, then you won’t find success. You have to be brave enough to take the first step.