Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Curious Monica: Season 3

Write Your Own Story and Claim Your Seat at the Table with Jenn T. Grace

Curious Monica – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

The Curious Monica podcast features candid conversations with innovators in thriving organizations across various industries. In each episode, host & founder of InnovatorsBox, Monica Kang interviews her friends in diverse fields about what they do and why they love what they do. If you’re curious too, you’ll gain incredible insight into the workplace patterns that can change the way you think about work, no matter what industry you’re in or who you are.

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

Jenn T. Grace has always been drawn to the transformative power of storytelling. Her affinity for communication and marketing, intertwined with her passion for storytelling, wasn’t merely coincidental. Friends and family often sought her out to navigate explanations or bridge communication gaps during conflicts, finding solace and guidance in her ability to connect the dots. However, embracing her own narrative didn’t happen overnight. Today, Jenn stands as the Founder & CEO of Publish Your Purpose, a thriving independent publishing brand that has facilitated the sharing of voices from over 200 individuals worldwide by redefining the publishing process. Yet, Jenn’s journey into this realm began with a desire to leave behind a toxic workplace where she experienced discrimination for five years.

In our conversation, we delved into Jenn’s remarkable journey of self-discovery, from finding her voice to establishing her publishing enterprise and emerging as the innovative leader she is today. Join us on Curious Monica as we celebrate Pride Month and honor LGBTQ+ trailblazers. 

Guest: Jenn T. Grace

Award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 150+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing. Before becoming a savvy publishing strategist, Jenn T. Grace was a nationally recognized speaker, thought leader, and expert consultant herself. She worked in the consulting space for almost 15 years and grew her consulting practice into the mid-six figures. She specialized in LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace and wrote six Amazon best-selling books. While Jenn was actively consulting in this space she wrote almost 500 blog posts and recorded over 125 podcast episodes. She now focuses on helping other experts reach success through publishing books.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Title of the Episode:
Write Your Own Story and Claim Your Seat at the Table with Jenn T. Grace

2. Host:
Monica H. Kang, Founder & CEO of InnovatorsBox

3. Guest:
Jenn T. Grace, award-winning author and founder & CEO of Publish Your Purpose


4. Key Topics Covered:

  • Empowerment through publishing and personal growth
  • Challenges and victories of LGBTQ individuals in professional settings
  • Marketing and communication strategies
  • Diversity in publishing
  • The importance of authentic corporate support for LGBTQ communities

5. Highlights:

  • Jenn T. Grace shares her journey from aspiring to be Dear Abby to becoming a successful author and publisher.
  • Discussion on overcoming challenges in toxic work environments and the importance of authenticity in marketing.
  • Insights into the future of publishing and marketing, emphasizing author empowerment and diversity.

6. Quotes from the guest:

  • “Everything happens for a reason, and whatever path we are on, we’re on that path for some particular purpose.”
  • “If you’re going to support the community, you have to stand by that and not just go running and hiding.”

7. Some people suggested that we should learn from:

Rhodes Perry, Casey Tonnelly, and Steve Yacovelli, notable figures in the LGBTQ community who are making significant impacts in their fields.

8. Contact Information for the guest:

Jenn T. Grace can be found on social media platforms under “Jenn T. Grace” or “Publish Your Purpose” and through the website PublishYourPurpose.com.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica reflects on the importance of embracing challenges as opportunities for growth and the need to continuously advocate and educate ourselves about diverse communities.

10. Episode Length and Release Date:
Episode Length: Approximately 40 minutes
Release Date: June 4, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
Writers, creators, and storytellers out there. Today’s story is going to be a treat for you. Meet my friend Jen T. Grace. She’s an award winning author and founder and CEO of a Publish Your Purpose, an acclaimed high Ridge publisher of nonfiction books. They’ve already published over 200 plus books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. And shout out, including my book, too, for Rethink Creativity. And so I had firsthand working with Jenn, and one of the things I’ve always long admired was her agility, creativity, just how she’s organized and makes her partners feel seen and appreciated. And she is not shy of challenging you to dive deeper. 


00:47

Monica H. Kang
And so, of course, learning that she is also part of the LGBTQ community and learning about her partner and her journey, raising her family and all, it got me wondering also, geez, like, I also noticed that I feel safe talking to Jenn about certain questions of how I can be a better ally. And Jenn quickly says, well, Monica, you’re not the only one. I get asked this question all the time. And turns out when I asked her about her early childhood, she says that she actually noticed that was a trait of hers. 


01:19

Monica H. Kang
She loves help bridging communities, and maybe because of that, she thought her first dream job way back as a child was writing Dear Abby columns because she loved the Q&A format, the opportunity where people felt safe to ask questions and where she can share answers to help alleviate the stress and perhaps provide some more insight. And of course, growing up queer and also being in spaces where she wasn’t feel seen and honestly, just playing out rude and discriminatory really pushed her to realize how do I want to live my life and how do I want to live fully with my identity as who I am without needing to hide? 


02:02

Monica H. Kang
So yes, were going to dive into her expertise in communication, marketing, how we are rethinking about the publishing industry because she is an author and a publisher, but also how she paved her voice being LGBTQ and for LGBTQ and allies who want to advocate for LGBTQ, tune in and let’s meet my friend Jenn, tuning in from Connecticut. So very excited to have my friend Jenn here. Thank you so much for joining us to celebrate Pride month with us. I don’t know how fast time has gone by. I’m curious. So many things to dive into, but maybe perhaps bring us back to the beginning. You’ve done so many things and continue to do so many things. What did you envision you wanted to do when you were a child? 


02:56

Monica H. Kang
And do you remember your first dream of what you wanted to do and who you wanted to become. 


03:02

Jenn T. Grace
You know, I love this question because I’ve had time to reflect on how everything might interconnect. But if I go back to childhood, I wanted to be Dear Abby. So for those that are not familiar with Dear Abby, it was an advice column in the newspaper. And I don’t know why, but I’ve just always been that person that everybody around me, everyone around me asks for my advice, whether it is something I have any business answering or not. I just. I am like that person that everyone comes to, and I’ve always been like that, even when I was little. So I definitely remember wanting to be dear Abby. And then for a while, I wanted to be, like, a technical writer, doing, like, manuals and things like that for programs and software, and that. That went off the deep end. 


03:46

Jenn T. Grace
I’m like, I’m not going to do this. And then I ended up getting a degree in communications. Like, my undergrad was communications, because I’m like, all right, this kind of encompasses all the things that I’m, like, moderately interested in. And then my graduate degree ended up being in marketing communications. And so what’s interesting is that my whole Dear Abby dream, I started a blog in 2012, and it started off called LGBTQ questions from a friend. And it was me giving advice to one specific friend of mine who’s a nurse practitioner who kept asking me healthcare related questions about how to treat her LGBTQ patients to make sure that she was approaching it in a respectful way and making sure that she was following all the best practices. I do not come from a healthcare background, so I had absolutely no business. 


04:28

Jenn T. Grace
I just happened to be the one queer person that she knew, and she knew that she could ask these questions to. So it’s kind of cool that it came full circle to some degree where, like, the blog became, like, my own personal dear Abby for at least, I want to say, five or six years, I had that weekly blog going. 


04:43

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. And I know, present tense, Jen is continuing the writing in many chapters in different ways. But before we get there, I want to still go back to kind of those early moments. It’s so amazing. I mean, Dear Abby, tell me a little bit more. Why were you interested in wanting to Dear Abby, and how did you first know writing as a passion? Because I don’t think that’s something that most people would think about when they’re young. 


05:09

Jenn T. Grace
I don’t even know that I have answer for that. Yeah, I don’t know I just. And it wasn’t like I never had a dream of, like, I want to write a book. You know, I’ve written seven. I’m working on an 8th. So, like. But I’d never. I didn’t have, like, that aspire, like, oh, my God, I want to be an author because I know a, a lot of young people definitely wanting to be an author, but for me, it was just very much like wanting to find a way to give my advice to people because I kept getting, like, it was just friends and neighborhood, like, I mean, it was just really anybody. And I don’t even know how I came across. Dear Abbey, if I’m being honest, I have no. I don’t remember that either. 


05:47

Jenn T. Grace
But I feel like it was the short form version of the content, because it was very, like, if I look at my writing style, and everyone has their own writing style, mine is very conversational. All of my book. My books are very conversational. And it’s intentional because, a, it’s easier for me to write that way, and b, it’s easier for the reader to understand what you’re trying to say. And so, a dear, an advice column is very conversational, and it’s very short. You have one question. You have one question to answer, and you have a limited amount of space to do so. So I think that was, like, a little bit more appealing versus, you know, writing a book, which could be, you know, 510, 20, 4100 thousand words versus, you know, something that maybe you have 500 words to answer a question. 


06:28

Monica H. Kang
Well, this speaks to then the next kind of area, which is your concentration and work in communication, marketing. You have, of course, worked in corporation as well before you became a business owner. But I bet still there’s many areas when you look back, like, this is what I studied versus this what the reality is. Break us down a little bit more of that world. 


06:47

Jenn T. Grace
You know what’s really funny is that when I was doing my undergrad again, it was a communications degree with, like, a emphasis on advertising and a minor in sociology. So the first marketing class I took, I got a d in. Yeah, right. I’m like the. My under. My GPA for my undergrad was like, 3.92, something like my ex wife at the time, we’re both finishing our masters at the same time. And were. And she beat me by, like, a 10th of a point, like something. But were both 3.9 plus. And so to have a D was, like, not in my identity. Like, I was distraught about it, but because it’s the way that the marketing was taught. 


07:29

Jenn T. Grace
And so if I look now, every single thing I have done, past, present, and probably in the future, will somehow have some kind of marketing and communications tied to it. So I feel like it’s one of those lessons that we can’t be. It’s like that expression of, you can’t fish on its ability to climb, right? Like, just can’t wrap your head around conceptually how something is doesn’t mean that you’re not good at it. And I think a lot of times, educational systems kind of make us feel like, oh, you couldn’t possibly do this thing because you got a d in this class. You know what I mean? 


07:56

Jenn T. Grace
So I just find it really very interesting that the first one was just a flat out d, like, and it was like the four p’s, like product, place, price, place, and promotion for marketing could not get through it. 


08:07

Monica H. Kang
What gives a reminder to those, whether they’re studying right now or have studied in the past, kind of refreshing reminder that, don’t worry, that’s not the end. It’s up to you. Even if you got an a, that you never know what you’re going to make use of it or if you might not make use of it’s up to. To you as the author, which is the whole vision that you stand by. Let’s go to now your work chapters, because then bringing on that, you’ve been very passionate, devoted to continuing to grow, but you’ve had some challenges that was unfortunate and not what you wanted to face. Tell me a little bit more. 


08:40

Jenn T. Grace
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting to look at them as challenges because it’s. I really believe, and I know it’s such a cliche phrase, but I really believe that everything happens for a reason. And whatever path we are on, regardless of how easy or how difficult it is, like, we’re on that path for some particular purpose. And what’s interesting is that I, when I graduated college, I got a job as a marketing coordinator for a large insurance company because I’m in Connecticut. And once upon a time, were the insurance capital of the world, and I immediately went into a homophobic work environment. I mean, like, straight out day two of working there, my. The director that was above me said that I looked like the captain of the softball team. Dyke. Like, literally those words she said to a girl in earshot of me, okay. 


09:32

Jenn T. Grace
And I was working in retail before, and I didn’t realize what a luxury, which sounds crazy to think about working in retail as a luxury, but from a expression standpoint of who you are retail, no one cared. No one cared who you dated, what you were up to, what extracurricular activities you were involved in, no one cared. Whereas going into an office environment where everyone was so tightly, like, physically tightly packed next to each other, everyone’s business is everyone’s business. And I wasn’t used to that because I was used to being able to kind of, like, pick which departments of people that I wanted to, like, you know, have conversations with and who I would allow to kind of know who I was. And so for my boss to, like, immediately out of the gate, call me a dyke, was like. 


10:14

Jenn T. Grace
And I was 23. I had no idea what I like. I had no idea what I was. And I was so grateful to get an office job. Cause I was like, oh, my God, finally, I don’t have to work until 10:00 at night. This is amazing. So what that did, though, is that it forced me to have a lived experience of a really toxic work environment, which I think, number one makes it that I would never create that type of environment for anyone around me. So there’s that piece of it. What it helped me do is I did last five and a half years. I don’t know how, but I lasted five and a half years in that. That absolute hell hole. But on the other side of it, I started a consulting business. 


10:50

Jenn T. Grace
And the consulting business focus was, if you want to attract LGBTQ customers or clients or employees or whomever it has to be, your message has to be authentic and aligned. So you cannot be saying, hey, we’re amazing for the community. Come do business with us. And then be calling your marketing person a dike behind the scenes, because that’s what this company did. Like, they were kind of, like, trying to, under my guidance, by the way, as, like, a last ditch effort to kind of change the culture was like, hey, come do business with us. We’re really great for the community. And then I would come back from a conference, and I would hear some kind of, like, slur or some kind of nonsense in the break room. 


11:24

Jenn T. Grace
And so I think what’s beautiful about this experience is that it allowed me to really empathize and relate with the clients that I worked with for so long. Because I could say, like, just because you’re outwardly saying this thing and, you know, we’re in June, right? Like, June is where every company comes out of nowhere and they’re throwing rainbows on all of their things, and it’s like, yes, but is it safe for your employees to be themselves in your workplace, because if it’s not, then you should absolutely not be putting pride flags on anything that you’re up to. So it gave me, like, a really good balance and perspective to kind of see from both sides of the table. 


11:56

Monica H. Kang
No, thank you for sharing that. And just, you know, bringing us to reality of this is part of the reason why I wanted to start doing these interviews, highlighting each month, because I felt like when we see these marketing seller, going back to theme of home marketing, communication celebrations, it taught me that. Wait, like, I also feel like I don’t. I needed, like, proactively make sure I’m, like, finding people from different communities to learn, educate myself, unlearn misinformation. And it felt mixed feelings when you would see these, like, nice marketing materials. But, like, do you actually know somebody of that background, whether it’s like, black, Latino, API, like LGBTQ or disability? And they’ll be like, no, but we support. I’m like, we appreciate the support, but, like, how are you doing that? And you’re kind of highlighting that. 


12:44

Monica H. Kang
And hence, thank you for taking the courage, sharing your story on it, pausing there a little bit, bringing back a little bit more. In the past, how did you first know about your identity and what helped you have the courage to open up? Because I think that’s also a really key point. Some people don’t find that space even at home and have the chance to express themselves early on. And I love that you had already, based on what you’ve hinted here. So tell me a little bit more about that. 


13:11

Jenn T. Grace
Yeah. You know, I have friends who knew from, like, straight out of the womb, right? Like, they just knew that there was about them that was not me. So I came out when I was 19, and if I look back there, every indicator points to very clearly being queer. Like, I mean, like, everything. Everything. But I didn’t know because I wasn’t exposed enough to know that this was a. This was, like, a thing. So, like, it’s one of those things that, like, if you don’t know what you don’t know, how are you going to be able to identify with something you don’t even know exists? 


13:45

Jenn T. Grace
And so for me, it was more of, like, that type of scenario because I can remember, you know, in high school, like, all of my friends being obsessed with boys and me wanting absolutely nothing to do with anything. It wasn’t because I knew I was different or I knew I wanted something different. It was just I was not interested. Like, it was just a very much, like, don’t care. This does not interest me in any way. And then when I was, like, on the tail end of high school, I had a really hardcore crush on somebody. But I know it was a crush, right? Like, and it was on a friend who was a girl. Like, I feel like every. Everyone has, like, some sort of having a crush on friends. Like, it’s just. 


14:18

Jenn T. Grace
It’s part of the community, and I had no idea that’s what it was. And it took me, like, a year and a half, maybe even two years, to be like, oh, my God. How I felt for her is how other people feel for boys. Like, it was like, this aha moment, and it literally was like a light bulb moment one day when I was 19 where I was like, oh, my God. And then once I had that, it was like everything made sense. Like, I was able to look back at every single period of point in my life and be like, oh, my God, this makes sense. I wish I had realized this sooner, but we’re on a journey, you know? Right. And it is what it is. We all come out at different times. 


14:50

Jenn T. Grace
And, you know, I have friends that didn’t come out until their late thirties. Now I have friends that didn’t come out until their fifties. And there’s people who knew when they were sick. So, you know, everyone’s journey is just a little bit different. But it’s also interesting that, like, when you. When you come out earlier, there’s, like, a different lived experience than someone who comes out later. And it’s not to say one is right, wrong, indifferent. It’s just two very different types of living experiences. 


15:16

Monica H. Kang
Building on that, I want to build on, kind of tap into your expertise, because, as you have pointed out from that past corporate experience, you’ve made the decision to say, you know what? 


15:26

Jenn T. Grace
Fine. 


15:27

Monica H. Kang
I’m going to start my own way of expanding the consultancy that you started on the side educating people. And so this is kind of your gamut of, you know, reconnecting back your dear Abby journey of helping people with that advice, giving that safe room. What would you say is a common question people have that they struggle to make the right connection, to relate and be a better ally to LGBTQ. So I’m curious, like. Cause you’ve probably come across, okay, like, my company, we’re trying to do a better job, Jen. Like, what am I supposed to do? What have you found to be a good example of how that has been done versus, like, a bad example? 


16:05

Jenn T. Grace
I think the bad example is easy. Cause there’s so many of them where it’s just a company. That’s inauthentic, right? Like, it’s just a company or a person who is just doing it because it’s the flavor of the month, and they see everyone else putting a pride flag up, and they put a pride flag up, and everybody is like, what on earth is this company or person doing? Because everyone knows that person is absolutely not supportive of insert any cause here. Right? Like, clearly, we’re talking through the LGBTQ lens, but, like, there’s plenty of times where there’s companies that. Not to say that chick fil a would ever do anything for pride because they are so anti LGBTQ to such an extreme degree that I can’t imagine they would ever do that. But if they did, everyone would be like, come on now. 


16:46

Jenn T. Grace
Like, we all know that you’re trying to make money here. I don’t think that would ever happen with them, so I think that’s the easier thing to see. Or, like, when target, like, comes out with a line of things and then they get a backlash from people, and then they’re like, oops, sorry, we changed our mind. We’re going to take it back. Like, if you’re going to come out and support the community, you have to defend your position on that support. You can’t just, like, go running and hiding the second someone says, oh, hey, is that really what you want to be doing? Or, you know, you’re going to hell because you support the LGBTQ community. It’s all these types of hostile, like, intoxic types of things that I think hit. And so as a company, you have to stand your ground. 


17:22

Jenn T. Grace
You have to say, like, we made this commitment to display a pride flag because we support our customers who are. We support our employees who are. We support the community at large. You have to stand by that and not just go running and hiding. And I think that’s where a lot of companies really miss the mark. 


17:40

Monica H. Kang
And what helped you find the courage to know that, hey, maybe this is something that I can do fully as a business and leave this other toxic workplace who doesn’t recognize me with my identity? 


17:50

Jenn T. Grace
I was so exhausted and fed up working with that company. And you know what stinks is that I really loved my job. I absolutely loved what I did. I learned so many things about marketing because eventually I moved up to be the marketing manager. I ended up one of my coworkers, and I were, like, employee of the month. Like, every other month, it was one of us. Like, were both, like, all stars in the company. Even though I dreaded walking into the office almost every single day. And it finally just hit that breaking point where I was like, no, I can’t do this. And so I just quit. I had nothing lined up. I had some ideas of what could happen, but I was like, I need to leave because my anxiety was through the roof. 


18:25

Jenn T. Grace
My sight, which I have, my vision is fine, but my sight at the time, because of the stress levels being so high, was starting to get blurry. Like, I mean, like, I had like, very clear physical impact. I was working there. So it wasn’t even, I think it was just that breaking point where it was like, if I don’t leave this employee, like, something even worse is going to happen to me if I don’t get out. 


18:47

Monica H. Kang
So how was that chapter then, once you start opening your business? Because as you have pointed out, it’s not as easy. Like, okay, great, now you have an idea. You’ve been doing consulting on the side, but tell us a little bit more. 


19:02

Jenn T. Grace
Yeah, those early years were rough. I’ll just say it that way. But the benefit of early entrepreneurship for anyone who’s like, I need to get out is that your overhead is low. So, like, all you have to worry about when you’re making the leap from corporate toxic environment to doing something on your own is basically replacing your income. Because especially as consultants, like, that’s the beautiful thing about consulting, is that the overhead is really low if you have the right skill sets in order to make that happen, because there’s obviously a lot of things that are needed, like branding and websites and marketing materials and then, like, you know, a plan and, like, the ability to be able to come up with, like, whatever your consulting package might look like. 


19:40

Jenn T. Grace
But the benefit really is that you don’t have to have a huge team to be able to do it. So I did that consulting work up until 2017, and it was me and a half a person, and I was making quite nice amounts of money and had such low overhead. And then I started a book publishing company and that completely flipped on its head where publishing is way more difficult and way more overhead. 


20:04

Monica H. Kang
Well, why did you want it to switch? 


20:07

Jenn T. Grace
I was exhausted. I think it’s like advocacy fatigue, which I know a lot of people kind of have, because I started the advocacy work in 2006 and it was now 2017, and I’m like, I am just exhausted from saying the same thing over and over again. And it being a 50 whether or not someone’s going to actually implement the thing that’s going to make the change. And so I was doing a keynote speech in Milwaukee for Pride month. And this was in 2018, maybe. So I was, like, dwindling down. Like, I really, like, definitively shut the doors in 2017 and then had some scatter. Actually, I’m speaking. I mostly speaking about LGBTQ things in 2024. 


20:51

Jenn T. Grace
Interestingly enough, just because somebody reached out and asked, I’m like, sure, I can still talk about this, even though I haven’t in forever, but I was doing this keynote speech, and I was just tired, and it’s not like. And I always change up what I’m talking about because I don’t like doing the same thing over and over again. But I was just looking out at everyone in the room, and I was like, you know what would be amazing is if I could be the one that’s, like, behind the scenes of the person who’s standing on the stage and, like, how much more cool would that be and how much more impact could that make if it weren’t just me? Because we as individuals have limited ability to make an impact, right? We have. Especially if we’re doing speaking. 


21:26

Jenn T. Grace
You’ve got 1000 people in a room. You do it 15 times a year. Sure. You impacted 15,000 people. Sure. But if I can be a publisher who’s helping other thought leaders such as yourself get out on those stages, and now you’re out there talking to 15,000 people in a year, and I’m helping 100 people do that, my impact is going to be so much greater, and I don’t have to have the fatigue of saying the same thing over and over again. I can have a process, and I can guide people through that process who are working on different things that then kind of piques my curiosity of being able to, like, learn about new businesses and new industries as I’m going. So it was really kind of a. There’s, like, a lot all kind of rolling in at the same time. 


22:04

Jenn T. Grace
That made it a very easy decision to be, like, I cannot do. I’m burned out. Like, I really just was burned out, and I’m still burned out now because I am still that person that everyone asks questions to. So I was at a friend’s house recently, and her boyfriend starts, like, asking me 112 questions about the trans community, and I’m like, oh, my God, I’m so tired. I came here to have a good time, and now I have to stand and educate. But what I appreciated is that he was genuine and he really was trying to understand. And so when I have that opportunity where someone’s genuinely trying to understand something, I’m going to take it and I’m going to put my all into it. But it’s still tiring because I’ve been doing this for two decades. 


22:41

Monica H. Kang
Jen, I feel like that’s maybe one of your books, more books that we need to get out to make it accessible. Great questions. Go to this book and resource, because we can’t have you be burned out. No. Thank you for sharing that. And I love the reminder that despite those moments of difficulties and burnout, you reuse that fuel to react, identify, and find new opportunities and manifesting the dreams and visions that you’ve shared, such as not only, hey, let me share my voice, but how can I help more people with it? With the publishing work? I want to tap into that world a little bit more. I think that’s a whole other industry that it feels like there’s number one lack of diversity, lack of diverse publishing. 


23:26

Monica H. Kang
So I’m really grateful that was, I was super personally pumped and was grateful to have a chance to work with Jen. And when Jen, for the listeners, if you heard how she broke down, it’s a very clear example of how organized Jen is. If you do get a chance to work with it, you’ll get to see her magic in real time, where she really manifests, and you can see how it’s possible, the way how she executes and operates everything. Publishing world now, it’s been a while since you’ve also now been in this space. How many years has it been now? 


23:57

Jenn T. Grace
I published my first book in 2013, so it has been eleven years. 


24:02

Monica H. Kang
And so given that time again, when you look back, what would you tell Jen at the beginning, knowing what you know now about the publishing world, the goods and the bads and the ugly? 


24:14

Jenn T. Grace
I would say find an expert and pay the person to do the work. Because if I go back in time and this is all available still on Amazon, because once the book is up, there’s no taking it down. Like, it can be. Like that listing lives on forever. So if you have a really crappy cover, for example, that will live on forever. And so I wrote my first. I wrote it in 2012, published in 2013, did another 120 14, another 120 15, another 120 16. I had four years in a row where I had books coming out, and then I took a break, and then 2017, 2020, and 2023. The first books were LGBTQ related because I had clients who were like, where’s your book? Where’s your book? Like, I need. I need to get. I need to give your information to somebody else. 


24:58

Jenn T. Grace
And I did it so poorly, because I didn’t know what I was doing. And so the first book, and I have copies behind. Like, I have them, they live on, they live behind me in my bookshelf. They were terrible. And then the second one I did, I’m like, all right, I think I’m getting the hang of this. This looks significantly better than the first. By the time I get to the third one, I’m like, alright, I know what I’m doing. And it was at the same time, like that whole advice thing, right, where everyone was coming to me and saying, how did you know how to publish a book? I’m like, I don’t know. I figured it out. That was my response to everybody. I don’t know, but I figured it out. 


25:32

Jenn T. Grace
And then finally I put people in a group setting and I’m like, all right, I’m just going to teach you because I’m like, I can’t. I have to make this more efficient and put people in a group setting and now teach you how to do it. And then in teaching people that are like, I don’t want you to teach me. I just want you to do it. And so that is how Pyp came to be. It wasn’t even like, I did not set out to start a publishing company. It literally landed in my lap. But again, it’s kind of going back to that, knowing what your purpose is and kind of what you’re like, what you’re here to do. And I’m doing exactly what I kind of dreamed of doing when I was standing on that stage six years ago. 


26:02

Jenn T. Grace
And I was like, yeah, I think I can have a more meaningful impact on this world by standing behind other thought leaders instead of being the thought leader always. 


26:10

Monica H. Kang
And as of now, I know you have published, helped publish more than 200 plus individuals books and get their stories out. Any advice for those out there and for those who’s wanting to get their stories, the tip that you feel is often mistaken. 


26:29

Jenn T. Grace
I think it’s just starting. And I know it sounds so much easier than it actually is, but I think Marie Forleo’s quote is everything is figureoutable. And I think that is 100% true for writing a book. But if we think about the two sides of this process is there’s the writing. Actually, there’s three sides. There’s the writing, there’s the publishing, and then there’s the promoting of it, right? No one can support you publishing or promoting it if you can’t get it written. So I think that’s the advice, is just sit down and just start writing. 


26:57

Jenn T. Grace
Even if you don’t know what direction you’re trying to go in, even if you like, the more you just sit down and actually do it, the more it becomes a habit and a routine and the more it starts to and the more the puzzle pieces start kind of fitting and making sense. But no one can help you until, like, you make that commitment. To say, this is important enough for me to prioritize in order to make this happen. And then there’s resources in every direction, from super cheap you could barter with somebody to costing you a small fortune. All of the resources are available, but you just have to make that commitment that this is important enough for you to do. 


27:30

Monica H. Kang
I want to circle back on a macro theme that you brought up a few times, which is because you are approachable and you’ve been so generous and kind and also very good at giving these advice and tips. You also often are in a situation where constantly being asked these questions, I feel like some of our listeners are in similar buckets where it’s like, I feel kind of confused of what do I do? Like, I don’t want to like turn people away, but like, how do you balance not burning out? Yes, they should go buy your book. I know you were flagging it, so we’re going to make sure we have all the links. But how do you adjust and manage your time and energy? Because your time is limited. 


28:06

Monica H. Kang
More people are wanting advice from you and help from you, whether they are a paid customer or not or want to be a fan. How do you balance that? 


28:14

Jenn T. Grace
I think it’s having a plan. I think that is the key. So I was jokingly being like, here, go buy the book. Also happy. If anyone, like, if you know price is a problem for someone, you’re welcome to email me. I will happily give you a copy. I think that’s what most of us can learn from our thought leadership, is that when we package things into the form of a book, it really changes the game because you don’t have to have those individual conversations anymore. But sometimes there’s still more than that. Like, sometimes people are like, I don’t want to read. I don’t want to read a book or I don’t want to listen to a book. I’d rather do something else instead. 


28:43

Jenn T. Grace
So for me, I do workshops a couple times a year, and when I do them, like, I have this free five day workshop that I do at least three or four times a year called the publisher purpose author lab. And it’s basically the content that is now in the book. Like I had the workshop first, I repackaged it. It’s like the first couple of chapters of the book. But the whole purpose is just help people understand what their purpose is, what their goals are, and how they’re going to come up with a plan that’s going to help hold them accountable. Not me, hold them accountable. Them hold themselves accountable to be able to go off and get the thing written. 


29:17

Jenn T. Grace
And so for me, I feel like I’m able to kind of have the balance of both because obviously I do have a business and I have a lot of overhead. I have a big team. There’s a lot that goes into it. But I also don’t want to omit the person who can’t afford to work with us. And that’s why that was really the main focus for putting this all into the book, is because I don’t want money to be a barrier. And I think a lot of times that happens when we have businesses that are tied to whatever it is that however we’re trying to serve. 


29:46

Jenn T. Grace
So I think for anybody else you can think of, what can I do a couple times a year that I do that is completely free that anyone has access to, but I’m giving them information that is going to be usable and practical and they can do something with, because I think a lot of times we join these programs because someone’s like, oh, come join this new challenge, and they give you nothing that is actually valuable to be able to go do something with. Because the way that it’s designed is you now have to work with that person or company in order to actually be able to do the thing that they’ve spent days telling you what to do. Where in my case, I’m like, I give the whole damn thing away. And it’s like, go off and do it. 


30:21

Jenn T. Grace
For those that want to work with us, great. But if you don’t want to or don’t have the means to, that’s fine, too, because now you have a plan. 


30:28

Monica H. Kang
To go do something with it that’s really powerful. And I appreciate that you’re also giving that formula to us. So that way those who are listening, you got the notes right, like make it yours and take action. Speaking of which, you’re sharing. We are sitting, of course, with somebody who is a communication and marketing guru, and you’ve been dropping the indirect and direct hints throughout the conversation. Where do you think the future of communication and marketing is heading? Advertising, even, and publishing. I mean, it’s all writing and communication. I feel like especially in the past few years with the pandemic remote work, online reliance as well as AI has dramatically changed how we think, how we relate. So I’m curious, like, what you’re noticing as an expert and what you think we should look out for. 


31:11

Jenn T. Grace
Lord, do we have 4 hours? 


31:14

Monica H. Kang
Another workshop? 


31:17

Jenn T. Grace
Could totally be a workshop, you know, if we look at. So I can speak to publishing more clearly. And I think some of this probably translates to other areas, too, is that there’s a lot of consolidation that’s happening. And if we look at how publishing was originally created, it was very hierarchical. Where there’s the publisher and they hold the keys to the kingdom. And you as the author should just be delighted that you are now beholden to that publisher. Right? Like, that was the power dynamic, and still is this case in a lot of instances, authors are empowered now, and that is a beautiful thing. But empowered authors messes up that business model. And so it is the authors that are completely flipping the old traditional business model for publishing on its head. And I’m loving seeing it. 


32:05

Jenn T. Grace
It does stink because there’s a lot of mergers or acquisitions or going out of business. And what’s unfortunately fortunate is that there’s employees that are being impacted by this. There’s authors that get kind of caught in the crosshairs of this. And so it stinks for the people who are, like, directly related to whatever that merger was or whatever that closure was. You know, there was a distributing company that just went out of business sometime in April, and it impacts so many authors, and it’s so unfortunate. But this is the problem with the industry, is that it’s just not adapting as fast as technology is and as fast as authors want, because authors, and that’s the part of the communications, is that we have direct access to our people. Right? Like you. Like, we’re on this podcast. Like, you have direct access to your people. 


32:52

Jenn T. Grace
And now I. They have access to me through the podcast. People who have blogs like that is all direct access to customers. You don’t need it to be in the form of a book that is published by Penguin Random House to be valid and for your message to be heard. And so I think that’s just going to continue to happen until they find some way. But it’s like, you know, it’s like the Titanic, right? Like. Or just like a big ship where it’s just. It’s moving too slowly to course correct at this point. And that’s where I think we’re seeing a lot of challenges. But I think the upside of this is that authors are empowered. 


33:25

Jenn T. Grace
Like that is the beautiful thing is that I think we don’t have to say, oh, this is the only company that’s willing to give me the time of day. I’m going to grovel and I’m going to beg and I’m going to hope that they’ll take me on. You can say, the hell with that. I’m going to do it my way and I’m going to do it a way that feels authentic to me and I’m going to see better success because I’m in control of how it’s designed, how it’s written, how it’s promoted. And so it’s definitely kind of a double edged sword in a lot of ways. But the diversity, or lack thereof, in the publishing industry has been notoriously a problem. 


33:53

Jenn T. Grace
And so that’s also a beautiful thing about empowered authors is they can say, yeah, I’m not going to be a token in your culture where I very clearly don’t belong or don’t fit here. I can go do this on my own, or I can find a smaller publisher that I fit within organically. 


34:08

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Love that. Thank you, Jen, for sharing that wisdom and also doing what you do to giving and sharing that voice. Breaking the industry down with us. You mentioned also you’re working on an 8th book coming out. Is there a theme that we can ask, or do we just have to follow to learn more? 


34:27

Jenn T. Grace
Well, the idea of it is that some people come to their forties in a crisis mode, and some people come to it from a place of peace. And what is it? What are people doing differently? This is either causing that tension in crisis or they’re causing that, like, coming into themselves even more intentionally. I have no idea where this is going, but, you know, I’m actively working on, actively brainstorming, writing a little here, writing a little there. No idea what it’s gonna look like, but my goal is to have it come out in June 26 of 2026. That’s my birthday and I think it sounds nice. And my routine is every three years, so I did one in 20 17, 20, 20, 23. So it’s been a while. 


35:13

Monica H. Kang
Looking forward to it. I think, honestly, whether somebody’s in thirties, forties, fifties, or any age would appreciate learning about that. So very curious. So, folks, you got the early notes. Stay tuned. Follow her and you know the drill. I’ll be sharing her links in the blog, or if not, follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram where you’ll get the connections and how to follow our guests. But the other favorite question I love asking as part of the series is, as I have hinted, we want to educate ourselves to learn more about the different communities as we celebrate Pride month. Jen, if you can shout out to three other people who happen to be LGBTQ, who’s an innovator that you recommend that we should learn from, who are some names that come to mind? 


35:56

Monica H. Kang
And I’ll follow up later to have the spelling and the name so we can put a shout out for them as well. 


36:01

Jenn T. Grace
So good. Okay, so Rhodes Perry is the first one that popped in my head. I don’t know if you know Rhodes personally or not, but I feel like we love to. 


36:08

Monica H. Kang
Yeah. 


36:09

Jenn T. Grace
Yes. Lots of overlapping circles there. Casey Tonnelly, also an amazing human being doing a lot of racial equity work through their own LGBTQ lens. And I have so many. Steve Iacovelli, his book just came out called your queer career for Pride Month. And so it is the whole dear abbey type of thing where it’s advice to people who are transitioning, not transitioning from a gender standpoint, but just transitioning career transitions and trying to find a place, a work environment that they can call home. And so Steve is amazing. He goes by the gay leadership dude in his book just came out that we helped him with. 


36:50

Monica H. Kang
Love it. 


36:51

Jenn T. Grace
Love it. 


36:51

Monica H. Kang
We’re going to make sure we have the links so that way you all could join and learn more. So as we continue our learning, we don’t want to stop here. We love Jen, but we want to continue to learn more with other people and grow and expand our circle. So thank you so much, Jen, for joining us. Two final questions as we wrap up, which is one, what’s a final piece of wisdom you want to share with our innovators? No matter where they are in their. 


37:14

Jenn T. Grace
Journey, whatever you are thinking about doing, just stop thinking and start doing it. 


37:21

Monica H. Kang
Love it. And final question is, what’s the best way folks can follow up with you and stay in touch with you? 


37:27

Jenn T. Grace
I am on all the platforms at Jen with two ends, t grace or at publisher purpose. So however, people would like to find me and our website’s publisher purpose, so I am very accessible. So if something came up for you and you want to have a conversation, I am available. 


37:41

Monica H. Kang
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, and thank you all for tuning in for another story. We’ll be back again next week, and please make sure check out Jen. And so excited you are here. So thank you so much, Jen, for joining us. 


37:53

Jenn T. Grace
Thank you. This is fun. Appreciate it. 


37:56

Monica H. Kang
Thank you so much, Jen, for reminding us that when we face those challenges, it’s not the end but the start. It’s up to us what to do with it. And so appreciate your constant nudge to remind us to step into that courageous space. Folks, again, you got the hint. She’s going to have another book out, but she already has seven books out herself. Check out the resources we’re going to put in the blog. And please continue your learning and advocacy and how we can better allies and how we can have the courage to share our voice. For those who’s tuning in who are LGBTQ, were going to continue our learning and celebration for Pride month. So next week were going to come back again and celebrate another innovators who happen to be gay. 


38:42

Monica H. Kang
So were going to dive into his journey and his innovation and how hes done what hes done too. This is curious Monica, your host Monica Kang. And I’ll see you next week. Have a good day. Thanks so much for tuning in today’s episode. It was so great having you. I hope this has inspired you and empowered you to know that your voice and stories matter. This is your host, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. And a little shout out to the wonderful team who made this possible today. 


39:21

Monica H. Kang
Audio Engineering and producing by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering Support by Ravi Lad, website and marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphic Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, Original music by InnovatorsBox Studios, which you can also check out in any music platform and executive producing, writing, hosting and interviewing by me, Monica Kang, founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox. Please give us feedback, questions, thoughts we want to hear from you. Send a [email protected] have a wonderful day and we’ll see you soon. Thank you. 

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