Dr. Casandra Henriquez – Children’s Book Author

Dr. Casandra Henriquez - Children's Book Author

In today’s episode of the Candace Duff Show, I interview a very special guest: Dr. Casandra Henriquez also known as Coach Cass – the love coach to professional women everywhere. She's a bestselling children's book author and a mom on a mission. Since becoming an author, she's been featured in the Washington Post, Forbes and NBC. She's also a former student of mine.  In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why a love coach decided to become a children’s book author
  • What it takes to produce a first-class children’s book
  • How many people it takes to self-publish a first class book
  • How your personal story can help you sell more books and garner media attention
  • How one author created a book based business off the back of her children’s book

Links mentioned during this episode:

Write Your Book in a Weekend: https://coachcandaceduff.com/bookwritingweekend

Princess Zara's Birthday Tradition https://amzn.to/3tmi75G

Zara and Ziggy website: https://zaraandziggy.com

Inspire Many website: https://inspiremany.com

Storyteller Quiz: https://storytellerquiz.com

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S.2 Ep. 2. Transcript Dr. Casandra Henriquez Children's Book Author

Why would a love coach become a children’s book author?

Coach Cass:

Girl. Let me tell you. So long story short. When I became a mom, I didn't realize that when you become a mom, you become an event planner. I didn't know that. And I kind of got away with it for my daughter's first two birthdays. But for her third birthday, she said “Mommy, I want a princess party.” And so, you know, I went out like a good mom to go find a princess party that represented her. And Candace, this is 2019. I couldn't find a thing. I said, this is a little crazy. Like why can't I find someone that represents my daughter? And so I said, okay, well, maybe I'll create a character just for her, put it on her wall and we'll call her Princess Zara. And when I first showed my daughter, Ava, the picture of Princess Zara, she said “Mommy, I don't want this one. I want the other one.  I want the white one.”

Candace:

Oh my goodness.

Coach Cass:

Girl. I started crying. I was actually at lunch with my white girlfriend that day. I said: “What is this?” And so I just started to pay attention. When go to the doctor, they'd give her a sticker and say: “Mommy, or, or, you know, baby girl, you did so great today at the doctor's office, Here's a, a picture, a sticker with my favorite princess on it.” And that princess never looked like her. Right? When I went to the department stores, I wanted to buy her like little paraphernalia – t-shirts nightgowns – with someone that looked like her. I saw a pig. I saw a purple vampire. I saw freckles. I saw long blonde hair, but I did not see anybody that looked like her. It's a bit crazy. And somebody would say, well, what about Tiana? Listen, Tiana was a frog for the majority of the movie, right? But there was no main character where this is just a little black Princess until Franklin Farrah, that all children, but really black girls and boys can see and look up to that are royal from birth. So really and truly that's what got me started on this whole mission, girl.

Candace:

And what's interesting is this is even before we like learned about Megan Markle – the Duchess of Sussex and all.  Where would we meet any other real-life princesses or whatever? What you described is not, I mean, I've heard a lot of complaints about that from other black children's book authors and people who were driven into it because our, you know, my nieces, my nephews, you know, and other kids don't have those role models to read about in their children's books. Now, when you and I started working together, when you started taking some of my courses and stuff, you were actually working on a relationship book. And I remember when you told me out of the blue that you were working on a children's book and I was happy. I was happy to hear that. So tell me a little bit about, about your process.

Tell me, how did you go about writing a children's book?

Coach Cass:

So long story short, I have a mentor who's a celebrity ghostwriter. And I told her my mission for my daughter and just creating representation. You know, my big dream is for this to become a mainstream cartoon that all kids can run to the screen and be excited about. You know, all the things. I really think it's, you know, the black doll versus the white doll test back in the day where all the kids chose, the white doll as better, prettier, smarter. I don't think it's because their parents told them that. But I think it's because it's not cool enough. So I want to make prints. Ads are cool. So for me, I shared that mission with her and she said, that's the book you need to do now. I said: “Oh.”

Coach Cass:

I've been working on this relationship forever. You know? And it's just like, we, we, we, we beat ourselves up. Is this good enough? Is this good enough? Is this good enough? And then when she, she gave me the charge to, to go ahead and follow that, that vision and mission of the children's book, I was scared, you know. So, it really was having the permission granted by someone who believed more in me than I did in myself. And then really starting to think about what resonates with children. So our first book, my first book really is about a birthday and all of our kids, all kids, love having a birthday and usually their lives revolve around birthdays, right? That's a big deal. Birthdays are a big deal. Listen, every single day, my child is telling me about what she wants for her birthday party.

Coach Cass:

Even if her birthday party was yesterday, it's like the next birthday party. It's like, that's where they have the, the line. And so I really started to think about the concept of, you know, the princess- the princess that spreads love, you know, all that stuff, but really thinking about where to hang my hat for the first book. We did it all around the birthday. And so the concept of the first book is really the family's tradition to spread love on their birthdays. And she has to decide what that is. So the core of who I am is volunteering and giving back. So she decides to give books to a local school and what's been so cool is I've had parents, aunties, uncles, and friends tag me on Instagram and social media with kids giving books away because of the princess on their birthday. So it just, it just makes me feel happy because you know, our society gets so self-centered, but yet, so that was the beginning process of the book.

Candace:

And how about the actual writing of it?

How did you know how many pages children's books should have?

Coach Cass:

So, you know, Candace, I came to one of your retreats and I remember, I thought I had my book done. Right? I had 12 pages. It had pictures. Everybody told me it was pretty. It was great. Just change three things. I thought I was ready to print, girl. I guess I got my book. Look Candace, got my book. And I remember in that training you saying, well, you should always have an official, a professional proofreader or editor really go through your book and rip it to shreds. I'm like: “Oh, okay.”

Candace:

Nobody, nobody wants to think about that. 

Coach Cass:

I was like I showed it to my mama. Wasn't that good enough? Like, no, I showed it to my baby. She liked the concept. Like, wasn't that good to know? Right. So I, I found a proofreader and she ripped that sucker up. I was like: “Oh, okay. Well, I guess I have some more work to do.” Literally every page had edits. And then I found out that, you know, for a children's book, you need at least 24 pages, that's double the amount of pages that I had. So then I had to redo all the illustrations. So that ended up costing me more on the back end for not setting it up properly on the front end. So, in writing my first book, I definitely learned some things because of you. That was just like, okay, this is why I can, this stuff exists. And I'm so happy because you helped. You helped me to understand the true process of what I needed to do to have a respectable book, because I could have printed something. Right? We all know somebody who prints some stuff, but if you want something that's the bomb.com. You know, my book hit number one, you know, and I'm just so grateful, you know, for you, because we were able to create something that parents and aunties and uncles and friends can be so excited about sharing with the children that they love. So thank you, Candace.

Candace:

My pleasure.  Thank you.  Because of your experience and the experience of some of my other students, it actually inspired me, remembering my own journey at the very beginning, to create my Bestseller Book Challenge because the time to think about book marketing, the time to think about the requirements and the norms and reader expectations of your genre, is usually before you ever put pen to the page. And that's one of the biggest things I teach on the Bestseller Book Challenge – to do your research – to look up and books that are similar to yours to learn about page requirements and what your book covers should look like. And you know, what your readers will expect from the type of book you're writing.  And you also hit on something else that was really important. I don't think people realize how many people a self-published author works with to publish a book. They think we're a party of one, but they don't realize that we work with proofreaders, editors, you tell me.

Coach Cass:

A proofreader, editor, illustrator, bestseller researcher. We have, cover-

Candace:

Designers. Yes.

Coach Cass:

Yes. The cover designers, but we also have the person to do the layout to upload it to the whoever whatever's printing the printer. If it's not, KDP like an actual printer to print the books. The shipper, a fulfillment center, if you don't want to ship it, you know?

Candace:

Yes. It's actually a village. Yeah.

Coach Cass:

There's the whole marketing side. Yeah. So the Facebook ads person, or, you know, a marketing strategy, a brand person, you know, an assistant, a virtual assistant to help make it all happen. Yes. So you're looking at about 10 to 15 contractors or folks that help you work it out.  Don't forget your cousins and them that need to also read through it, to give their 2 cents, you know, to feel special in the process. Yeah. I have one girlfriend that I think she needs to go into proofreading that I have. I had her proofread it before I sent it to the official proofreader. She's an English teacher and she's so amazing. And she helped to proofread it as well to make sure that I was on track, you know, so it's like, there's me, but then there's the refinement process to really make it something real.

Candace:

So, tell me about your first book: Princess Zara’s Birthday Tradition  

Coach Cass:

I, I did purposely put a black and a white character on the, on the cover to, to just help introduce the concepts. Right. So that all children would be okay with picking up this book. You know, it's really, uh, a re-introduction to a book in which a little black princess can be royalty. It's just all about her birthday and celebrating it. And one of the biggest lessons she learns, it's better to give than it is to receive the children she gave to meet her cards. And she was so excited and that's what really made her birthday amazing. So it has questions in the back. I'm, you know, I'm an educator by heart, so I'm always like, all right, well, how do we really send this message home? So I also encourage people to take pictures with the book. So it's a, it's a fun time.

Since then, I have created a workbook, right? Because I realized that also, when we look at our worksheets in schools and things, there are no black characters. So I created a coloring and counting workbook for numbers one through 20, because so many people are homeschooling kids or just need something that actually has some representation or diversity on it. Right? Cause I do have many, many, many purchasers and advocates for princesses are that are not black, right? Because they realize like “Hey, I do need to diversify myself. It is important for my kids to see something other than themselves.” And for our black children for them to see themselves less than 10% of books, children's books, every year feature a minority main character, much less a black character.

There are more animal books than there are black kids on a book as a main character. And then the, well, I also have the birthday party set and that was inspired because of my child not being able to find it. So that was, that was huge for me because we made it happen within a year. So her last birthday, which was her fourth, her fourth birthday, she was able to have a princess, our birthday party. Now she's told me for her fifth birthday, she wants a Ziggy party. I'm like, simmer, simmer, hold down, hold on, hold on, hold on, Joe. Don't simmer me down. But she's, she's really excited about the Ziggy birthday. I'm like simmer princesses are in. My birthday's coming up soon. I'm going to have a princess birthday party. Okay. With the decorations lay around, playing around with it. I'm excited. Yeah.

Candace:

Okay. So you not only created these, the book and the workbook, but you also have birthday party decoration items that you sell, but you've created pretty much a business on the back end of your book. Tell me about that. Tell me who typically buys, you know, the birthday party decorations and what exactly, what items do you have for sale? Where can they find you? Things like that.

Coach Cass:

So the website is https://zaraandziggy.com. And really it's just looking at, and I've tried not to go too crazy. I'm a creator. I'm a creative. And my husband has put the brakes on me creating any other types of items. So he's like simmer down, man, before you create a whole store for us to have in this house. So I, um, I have the birthday party sets. I have the wall decals, you know, the things that you want to set a child up with where they, how can they see it? Right? See it in their bedroom. See it for the, one of the most important events in their lives when they're little is a birthday party. So those are the two main things. Now I have t-shirts – birthday t-shirts, regular t-shirts mugs. I have a beach towel, you know. I have some fun stuff that are printed on demand.

Coach Cass:

All right. So we set that up print on demand. And then there is actually a fulfillment warehouse. It's ready to ship at any time. So who buys it? People who have kids that are having a birthday, right? So if you know a child that's having a birthday in the next 365 days, you should buy it and send it to them. Mama, like, you know, with the book, so that they know who the character is. That's the part that we don't want to miss. We don't want to miss that. We need to know who the character is as well. Right? Yeah. And then now we have a new book coming out or that just came out: Princess Zara and the Royal Festival that features the Prince, a Prince named Jabari, and it's all around role models and who you can look up to as a child, that’s closest to you. Sometimes they look at everything outside of the home, but also the person inside the home can be your role model as well.

Candace:

All right. That sounds lovely. Absolutely. Very lovely. And what age ranges would you say, um, would be most interested in that?

Coach Cass:

You know, I bought books for my child before she was born. So I would say zero to about eight is really the extra.

Candace:

So let me ask you another important question. You have a very strong niche, right? You have an age range, you know, it's going to be people who have children who are making sure there's diversity in their outlook – who are looking for more stories about giving things away, typically female children for the most part. I mean, so you have a very strong niche and you have a very strong theme. How does having a very strong niche and very strong theme help you in getting media attention, with your marketing and things of that nature?

Coach Cass:

I would say a hundred percent that my story of why I created the book has helped me to sell it more than anything. I had one person, one person literally write a check to fund a thousand books. Right? One person and that was because of the power of the story that I shared, you know? And what's just been so beautiful is the, because I have a love coaching practice, I haven't taken any money for myself from that. So it's all been refueled to really help this business grow and to match and, and amplify the voice of princess Zara. So it's just been, just been beautiful. And the media – yes – I've, I've gotten attention through my storytelling from NBC, the Washington Post, Woman's Day – all through sharing my story with people.

Candace:

And I know your husband is also a coach as well and that he specializes in helping people tell their stories. 

Coach Cass:

Yes. So Andy Henriquez, he is the master storyteller. And if you've ever wondered, like, what is your storytelling style? He has a quiz. I think it's https://storytellerquiz.com  where you can actually figure out what type of storyteller you are. But he helps entrepreneurs, coaches, authors to tell their story in a more impactful way that also helps them to gain more revenue. And I'll say it absolutely changed my life, you know, as a non-biased wife. Because so often we have all these floating thoughts, but how do we compile them into a concise way that when we share the story, the audience goes “Hmm, let me lean in. Let me hear more about that or  I felt like that.” You know, so there's something powerful about having a story that connects and lands with the audience. And for me, that's given me more confidence. That has also increased my revenue and helped me, my notoriety. And then that has helped me in terms of just sounding like, I know what I'm talking about. Hello.

Candace:

There you go. All right. So are there any last thoughts that you want to leave with the audience?

Coach Cass:

Just for anyone thinking about writing a book. Candace is a great support system. And then also that know that, you know, it may not always happen in the way that you thought. I have wanted to be a relationship book author for over a decade. And I had a sticky that recently fell off my door that said bestselling author. I put that there in 2009. I finally became a bestselling author in 2020, but it wasn't in the way that I thought. So just to remember that a dream delayed is not a dream denied, right? A dream delayed is not a dream denied. There are still possibilities for you to get what you want, but it just may not happen exactly how you thought it would. But it could still happen. But the first thing you got to do is make the decision honey that you want to make it happen.

Candace:

Okay. Period. All right. So if the audience wants to find you, they should go where?

Coach Cass:

Please, please do find me on all social media. I'm either ZaraandZiggy or Inspiremany. And both of them are websites, https://ZaraandZiggy.com  for everything Zara and Ziggy and https://inspiremany.com  for everything overarching. So I just, I’m just am just happy to connect with all of you. Let me know that you heard me here on the Candace Duff Show.

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