Tamar Hela is an independent editor, writer, and former English teacher from California. She lives and works in Shanghai as the “How-to Queen” at Sticky Steps, writing and editing digital education products for young professionals.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I began my writing journey in 2009 as a means to work through depression but also because I couldn’t get an idea out of my head. I felt compelled to write it all out, like nothing I’d experienced before. Three years later, I had a finished and edited manuscript and decided to go the self-publishing route so I could control all aspects of my publishing journey.
I learned A LOT. Made lots of mistakes, met amazing people, connected with the digital and self-publishing community, and knew that this was now a part of my life.
When I got into editing, I thought it would maybe be just a few manuscripts here and there, but after partnering with a small publishing firm from 2014-2016, and working with a handful of private clients, here I am, 40+ books later. I am now working in digital education (creating Udemy courses) and publishing, and recently gave a talk in Shanghai, China about DIY publishing.
I enjoy being a bit of a publisher, editor, and writer rolled into one because it’s fun and challenging, and every day is different. I also like having control over the entire process because it makes me feel like my vision is coming to life just the way I imagined.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
A typical day involves going into the office (in Shanghai), working with freelance writers, giving editing feedback for video scripts being written, having an offsite meeting with a content developer (some days; not all), and building systems for our projects while making publishing and social media marketing plans. Every day is a bit different, which is exactly how I thrive in my work life.
I’m also constantly networking. There’s an amazing Girl Boss group in Shanghai, and we have breakfast and other networking events during the month. If I can make it to an event, then I go and meet other entrepreneurs.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
Right now, I’m trying out Asana for our whole team. I’m still getting used to it and seeing how I can really make it work for us.
I’m also a huge Evernote advocate. I use it for note-taking, checklists, writing/book ideas, clipping useful articles–you name it, I’ve probably got it in Evernote, digitally organized so it’s easy to find when I need it.
I really like Scrivner, but I need to take a course on it (I have one waiting in the wings) so I can use it to my advantage instead of stumble around it.
And I still take notes in a journal, as well as my to-dos for the day. There’s something about writing it all down by hand that helps it to stick in my brain better.
WHAT DO YOU DO OR GO TO GET INSPIRED?
I read books, go for a walk, watch a movie I love, talk to other creatives, listen to music… so many things inspire me, so it’s a matter of what medium I choose and what it sparks in my mind.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
Tough question! But if I had to choose just one quote, it would definitely be:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Is there a Product, Solution, or Tool that you think is a Good Match For Your Digital Publishing Efforts?
Since we’re just starting to hop onto the production rollercoaster, with quite an ambitious future product line, I’ve been studying Amazon Marketing Ads. I took a free course recently about how to design the ads and was introduced to KDP Rocket to help generate words for writing copy and targeting potential customers. We’re not quite to that stage yet, but I definitely will look into it more when we’ve got a nice line of products ready to go.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
Do your research and don’t just trust “experts” because they’re labeled as such. Go slow and don’t be in a rush to get things out there when you’re first starting out; it’s the best way to waste time and money, and will lead to so many mistakes. Be sure to read a lot about the industry and keep up with industry trends–email subscriptions are the best way. You really have to start to live the life of a digital publisher by thinking about it all the time, reading the latest news, and staying on top of trends. It’s not that the trends are something you need to worry about; you just need to be aware of what’s happening.
Also, don’t expect to get rich overnight and have tons of success right away. You really have to keep at it for quite some time. Make sure you focus on building your audience and getting email subscribers. That’s one of the most important, evergreen pieces of advice that will always hold true.