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The Blogger Genius Podcast with Jillian Leslie

Aug 1, 2018

Today I’m talking with KariAnne Wood from the blog, Thistlewood Farms. KariAnne is a DIY and interior design blogger, but really she's an excellent storyteller.

In this episode we explore how starting a blog can lead to multiple book deals.

We delve into how KariAnne started her blog out a feeling of loneliness and then built it into a booming business!

Her blog lead her to a huge publishing career. But what most impressed me most about KariAnne is how she's built such a deep connection with her community, and it's all been through authenticity.

And wait until you hear her stories!


Some of these links may be affiliate, meaning at no cost to you, I may make a commission.

Transcript: How Starting a Blog Can Lead to Multiple Book Deals With KariAnne Wood

Host: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Blogger Genius Podcast, brought to you by MiloTree. Here's your host, Jillian Leslie.

Jillian: [00:00:10] Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Blogger Genius Podcast. Today, my guest is KariAnne Wood who is the founder and CEO of Thistlewood Farms. She is a lifestyle blogger, author, and speaker. So welcome to the show, KariAnne.

KariAnne: [00:00:30] Thank you so much, I'm so glad to be here.

Jillian: [00:00:33] So we were just talking about a whole host of things, the main thing I am curious about is, first of all, how you started your blog and how you ended up moving back into your childhood home?

KariAnne: [00:00:49] Well, the blog kind of began out of necessity about 10 years ago, we were living in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex in McKinney, Texas, which is a very busy metropolitan area.

KariAnne: [00:01:01] My husband and I, we were just tired of all the busy, and tired of the rat race and we wanted an adventure. So we gathered our four children up and we move to the middle of nowhere in Kentucky.

KariAnne: [00:01:14] It was actually the suburb of a 500 person town. Cows were our neighbors. Target was crossing state lines. There were no stoplights in our entire county. And there I was in the middle of this rural paradise and I was lonely.

KariAnne: [00:01:34] I wanted to really reach out and find a community of like-minded people that love to decorate and share their heart. And so I started a blog called, Thistlewood Farms.

Jillian: [00:01:44] So wait, OK, so you move out there. You're living the dream and you're lonely. How do you feel? Like oh my God, we made the biggest mistake of our lives?

KariAnne: [00:01:53] Well, everyone else, my four kids were like having the time of their lives. My husband was extraordinarily happy because we bought a business, and he was all consumed with the growing of the business and everybody was so happy except me.

KariAnne: [00:02:07] And part of the reason why I was lonely is because we moved to an area where everybody was related. They came over on the Mayflower together, and they were all together and it was really hard to make friends and I definitely made some amazing friends.

Building a blog to find a community

KariAnne: [00:02:22] I'm not going to act like I was all by myself, but I just wanted people that had similar interests to me. And so that's really how the blog was born, kind of out of just looking for community.

Jillian: [00:02:34] Interesting. And have you always had a designer's eye? Have you always been creative?

KariAnne: [00:02:40] 100 percent. Like when I was younger, I had Barbie houses and I was like, forget about the Barbies, because I would just decorate their houses and then kind of plop them in. So yeah, I've always loved to decorate and I've always kind of been a very creative person.

Jillian: [00:02:57] Now were you a professional decorator back in Texas?

KariAnne: [00:03:01] No, I'm actually a decorator from the School of Hard Knocks. I say in all my books, I made every decorating mistake in the entire world. And so I went before everybody and made them all so I could save people from them, from making mistakes that I made along the way.

Jillian: [00:03:21] That is that is terrific. OK. I have to just confess we are moving from Palo Alto to Austin over the summer. So if anybody, by the way, has been listening to this and is in the Austin area, please reach out because again I'm looking for friends, but I am now thinking about decorating and so I have a whole new interest, so tell me the biggest mistake people make.

Design advice from a style blogger

KariAnne: [00:03:44] Oh I think the biggest mistake that people made is following trends like looking online and finding something that looks very trendy, or someone is telling them this is the way to decorate and they go that route and it's not really them and it doesn't fit.

KariAnne: [00:04:01] It's like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. And I'm always like, just go with what you like. Like if the current trend right now is all neutral and you love hot pink carpeting, you go for it. Embrace that and live that because that's how you are going to make your home truly one that you love, is by embracing what is truly you.

Jillian: [00:04:21] OK here's one question, I go on to Pinterest. Let's say I type in kitchen remodels and they all look, they're gorgeous but they all look the same.

KariAnne: [00:04:32] I know right.

Jillian: [00:04:35] I feel like I'm being biased by the fact that I need a farmhouse kitchen with a big white sink and white cabinetry and you know like some bar stools and I feel like I love that now but I can't tell if I really love it, or if I'm being brainwashed into loving it. And if in six months everybody is going to be doing something else.

KariAnne: [00:05:01] I am kind of with you in that you're second guessing yourself but I am a big fan of keeping your design, big design, expensive design choices neutral.

Jillian: [00:05:13] OK.

KariAnne: [00:05:14] In other words. So when you're looking at your kitchen I think keeping your cabinets relatively neutral, whether it's a white or it's a gray.

KariAnne: [00:05:21] I think keeping those relatively neutral keeping your countertops relatively neutral and if you love color you can do that in other ways. So you have your big ticket items in your kitchen and those are all relatively neutral.

KariAnne: [00:05:34] And then you're like you know what, there's too much neutral. You can always pop it out with like textiles in the room or you could pop it out with beautiful floral arrangements or adding in greenery or just baskets and different fun things in the space to liven it up so that you're not going the complete farmhouse route.

KariAnne: [00:05:52] However, if you get in there and you love the neutral, go with it! Not just because people are telling you. Decorate with your heart, like look in that space and say, "Is this space something I want to sit across the Thanksgiving table from?""Is this a space I want to live in every single day?" If it is, go with it.

Jillian: [00:06:10] OK. But I just feel like somebody is going to walk in, like in five years somebody is going to walk into my house and go oh my God, it's so 2018.

KariAnne: [00:06:19] You know what, there is a chance they might do that, but that's why I think sometimes just making small changes along the way is good.

KariAnne: [00:06:28] For example, I'll just give you a little story for me, I was all about neutrals. I mean my farmhouse, if you look at it it was all neutrals all into that. And then we purchased this home the home I grew up in.

KariAnne: [00:06:43] And all of a sudden it's like I'm feeling like it needs color, like I went with a neutral look and now I'm going back and adding in color, pops of color, just because it's what the house needs. And so what worked at that farmhouse, is not necessarily working in this house.

Jillian: [00:06:59] OK so now we can get off of my own little design issues and get back to your story.

KariAnne: [00:07:06] You could always message me if you have questions.

Jillian: [00:07:08] OK I'm serious because I love your aesthetic and I feel like I'm kind of flailing except for Pinterest and everything looks the same.

Jillian: [00:07:15] So all right, so you move out to Kentucky. You're in the middle of nowhere, you're lonely. You want community, you start this blog.

KariAnne: [00:07:24] Yes. And I had no idea of the world of blogging I had no idea people made money off of it. I had no concept of that. I was just doing it to join a community.

What are the business opportunities that come from blogging?

KariAnne: [00:07:33] And along the way these incredible business opportunities presented themselves and I kind of put on my marketing hat and I started marketing the blog.

Jillian: [00:07:41] So wait, explain, what are these tremendous business opportunities?

KariAnne: [00:07:44] Well along the way I have worked with, like for example, last year I worked with 53 different brands.

Jillian: [00:07:51] Okay.

KariAnne: [00:07:52] And so anyone from Wayfair to Sherwin-Williams to Frogtape and I work with them in a variety of different ways with different collaborations. Some I'm working on photography with them.

Jillian: [00:08:08] What do you mean you're working on photography with them?

KariAnne: [00:08:11] Like for example they would send me products and I photograph the products in my home and then they use it in their social media.

How to collaborate with brands as a blogger

Jillian: [00:08:16] So it's not you're not posting, you're like a paid photographer.

KariAnne: [00:08:21] Well sometimes, it depends on the collaboration. Every collaboration is different. Some collaborations they send me the product, I post about it. I show how I've decorated my home on my blog. And then I give them the assets the photography assets to use on their own social.

KariAnne: [00:08:35] Sometimes I'm literally just taking pictures of the product at my home for them to use on their own social or on their web site or in a blog post.

Jillian: [00:08:45] And do they tag you? Do people know this is you or in that respect you're like a gun for hire with a beautiful home and a great taste?

KariAnne: [00:08:57] It depends. Most of the time if they're using my images it would be written into the contract that they would tag me because I own the rights to those photographs. I mean depending on the contract and what's negotiated. But yeah they for sure would tag me.

Jillian: [00:09:11] Okay. Got it. So you're a blogger, brands are I guess reaching out to you?

KariAnne: [00:09:18] Yes. Well it's a little bit of both. I think when you're a blogger you know I'm the Queen of Hustles so I'm always like "Who did I work with last year? Let me approach them and see if they're interested in a new collaboration." or a lot of times brands do reach out to me.

KariAnne: [00:09:31] I mean, probably one of my best tips as a blogger is a lot of times with a brand, I'll work with their PR agency. And that PR agency may have another client besides the client that I'm working with.

KariAnne: [00:09:44] And I will say to the PR agency, "hey I've got this Bathroom remodel coming up, hey I've got this kitchen remodel, hey I'm redoing my front room. Do you have any clients that are a good fit for that?" And some of my best collaborations I've gotten because I worked the PR contacts that I already had.

Jillian: [00:10:01] Got it. And then you end up hopefully getting free product.

KariAnne: [00:10:06] Yes. Again each collaboration with a brand is different. I mean sometimes I'm using products that they send to me, sometimes I'm designing an inspiration board for them. I mean each collaboration looks different but typically it does involve some sort of pre product.

Jillian: [00:10:23] Got it. Okay. So I mean, that's always a way for you. Lifestyle bloggers style bloggers DIY bloggers. Isn't that a nice way to reach out to a brand and say "I'm redoing my kitchen" like reaching out to say Whirlpool or something like that, how would you do that?

KariAnne: [00:10:46] If I was going to go through a major remodel. I know I have kind of a long time ago when I first started blogging, one of the promises I made to myself, kind of one of the guidelines that built my business on is I never put anything in my home just to blog about it because then it's not authentic. And the readers know that.

KariAnne: [00:11:05] So I there's many collaborations that I've turned down just because they're not a fit for my brand. It's not something that would work in my house.

KariAnne: [00:11:14] Back when I was all neutral all the time. I mean if if a company that had a very colorful aesthetic with like super cool graphic prints and things like that that might not necessarily work in my space then that's probably not a company that I would have worked with.

How to reach out to brands as a blogger

KariAnne: [00:11:29] So a long time ago just set that forth. So if I was going, let's say I'm doing a kitchen remodel and I worked with a tile company in the past I've worked with a countertop company in the past typically I would reach out to them.

KariAnne: [00:11:43] I have a pretty extensive network of contacts now because I've been doing this for 6 years. I would reach out to them say, "hey this is what I'm doing, is this a fit with your marketing budget? Is this something that you might be interested in?"

KariAnne: [00:11:55] And sometimes it's a fit and sometimes not so much and sometimes the parameters that they would have, you'd have to wait a couple of months and I need the tile right then and probably that might not be a good fit or I need a countertop right then and it might not be a good fit.

KariAnne: [00:12:10] But typically you're reaching out to the brands and saying here's my project can you come alongside me and partner with me.

Jillian: [00:12:18] That's great. So let's say you're doing a kitchen remodel. How many brands would you want to partner with you with your kitchen?

KariAnne: [00:12:25] I think it depends on the extent of what you're doing and kind of who you have in contacts and what would be a good fit.

KariAnne: [00:12:33] So for example in my kitchen that I just redid I chose to reuse existing cabinets that we already had rather than reaching out to a cabinet brand.

KariAnne: [00:12:44] Just because I already had the cabinets and I'm kind of frugal girl. And so it made more of a fit to do a post and show the readers hey look these were cabinets from another area of the house that we just repurposed added molding to and kind of redesign them to look like brand new cabinets for the kitchen.

KariAnne: [00:13:02] So I think that totally depends on the scope of your project and what you need for that project.

Jillian: [00:13:09] Got it. OK so let's let's go back to your story. So you're living in Kentucky and then all of a sudden you end up, because of family illness right? You end up moving back home.

KariAnne: [00:13:26] Yes. We had some illness come up in our family that was it's a little bit overwhelming and so they just needed us. I mean it was kind of like step up time.

KariAnne: [00:13:36] And so we knew that it was they just needed us and we needed to be home so I said to my husband oh my gosh if there's any way we could get back the family home that would be totally amazing.

KariAnne: [00:13:49] My mom had sold it about five years ago to a wonderful couple. And I called her up one day and said hey you don't really know me. I'm KariAnne, and I used to live in your house. I would love to buy it. Is there any chance that you would sell it to me? And she was like wait, KariAnne, do you write a blog?

Jillian: [00:14:10] No way!

KariAnne: [00:14:14] So yeah, she totally read the blog. She's amazing girl like oh my gosh super amazing girl and she said actually yes we would totally sell it to you.

KariAnne: [00:14:24] They had some circumstances in their lives where they were actually it wasn't on the market or anything but amazing timing. And so yeah we bought it from them and just never even went on the market.

Jillian: [00:14:36] Oh my God. Well first of all I have to say I've been boggling your name by calling you KariAnne. And it's KariAnne.

KariAnne: [00:14:43] Oh no worries.

Jillian: [00:14:44] OK. But that is amazing so, a couple of things. How did you feel leaving your house in Kentucky that you had then remodeled?

KariAnne: [00:14:52] I was literally, they were like prying my fingers off of the front porch pillar. I was in an emotional relationship.

Jillian: [00:15:01] Really. OK.

KariAnne: [00:15:03] Now it helps it helps that this house is so amazing like that helped in that, you know I've lived a lifetime in this house. I don't know if I would have traded it for any other house but this house. But I did love that farmhouse. Oh my gosh it was one of a kind.

Jillian: [00:15:18] And I recommend people go to your blog because you have photos of both your current house and your old house. Like definitely check it out. It's gorgeous.

KariAnne: [00:15:27] Thank you so much. It's a labor of love. Both of them.

Jillian: [00:15:31] OK so how long ago did you move home?

KariAnne: [00:15:35] Thanksgiving.

Jillian: [00:15:36] Oh OK. So relatively recently.

KariAnne: [00:15:38] Yes. Very very recently and so we've kind of been in a mad dash to really remodel this house because when you're a blogger you know I need places to photograph and I need rooms that look cute.

KariAnne: [00:15:51] And I actually wrote a post on my blog that said every day I wake up and I try to make the house cuter than it was yesterday. Like that's my goal.

KariAnne: [00:16:04] So today, either I'm going to add pillows or I'm going to paint something or I'm going to switch a bookcase around or do something so it just made me feel so much better and miss my old house less every day. I took a small step to making it cuter than it was the day before so it's a process.

Jillian: [00:16:23] And how is the cuteness factor now?

KariAnne: [00:16:25] It's getting there. I mean it needs so much work. Like in my mind I can see it all done. I feel like I'm running a design marathon like, "I'm coming, don't worry house I'll show up you'll be cute soon!" It's getting there, it's getting there.

Jillian: [00:16:44] I love your use of the word cute for your stuff. It's so sweet. I mean again life is all about change and uncertainty. But at least you can control the cuteness.

KariAnne: [00:16:54] That is so true. The best story ever of the house, this is literally the best story. So when my mom sold it, I was of course emotionally attached to this house too. And so my mom said "I'm selling it" my father passes away and my mom it's just too much house for her. So she had to sell it.

KariAnne: [00:17:09] So she goes to sell the house and I go on like a farewell tour of the rooms like "bye dining room, having Thanksgiving was so awesome" and like "bye staircase where I said hello to Santa Claus" and like "bye kitchen where I met my husband" you know like "go have a nice life".

KariAnne: [00:17:24] And as I'm literally about to head out the back door there is this bathroom with a mirror. And it's this giant ornate antique mirror not even my style or anything. And I look at that mirror and I had stood in front of that mirror in my wedding dress.

KariAnne: [00:17:40] I had waited for my husband put my lipstick on before our first date in front of that mirror, and something just comes over me and I literally grab the mirror and I run out of the door with it like I'm like throwing in my car driving back to Kentucky.

KariAnne: [00:17:55] And when we bought the house back I brought back that mirror and I put it right back where it was. Oh and an even better ending to the story is I have little twins that are in ninth grade and they just went to their first dance and they were standing in front of the mirror putting on their lipstick.

Jillian: [00:18:16] Oh. Oh.

KariAnne: [00:18:19] I know! Dude, I'm like full circle.

Jillian: [00:18:21] Oh that's so sweet. Wow great story. Great story. OK. So now the one thing I want to talk about is books because you are an author you've written how many books?

How to get a book deal as a blogger

KariAnne: [00:18:37] I have. There's five books in all. Two are on the market currently. Another one is releasing September of 2018 and then there's another full color coffee table book that releases in March of next year (2019). And then one more after that.

Jillian: [00:18:58] So based on interviews I've done in the past on this podcast with people who've written books most people say "I write books because it's a labor of love". "I write books because it puts my brand out there and establishes me as an expert. But books are not moneymakers. Books are a way to launch myself".

Jillian: [00:19:21] And when we were talking you said well that's not exactly been true for me that I've actually made money from my books.

KariAnne: [00:19:27] Yes 100 percent. I think probably the most important component is, when you're looking at publishing a book there are many different routes.

KariAnne: [00:19:38] There is of course self publishing where you would publish it yourself and you put out all the money upfront and then you sell publish and sell it and market it yourself.

KariAnne: [00:19:49] Then there is kind of like a hybrid where you have a company that publishes the book for you and then they provide you with copies and then you purchase them at a discounted rate and then you sell them and they maybe help a little with marketing but not that much.

KariAnne: [00:20:04] And the route that I went which is the one I recommend is traditional publishing. Is working with traditional publishing house and I have been so fortunate to work with two incredible publishers that will ever and forever have my heart.

KariAnne: [00:20:22] And the reason why I went that route and probably my best advice for anyone looking to publish a book or thinking about publishing a book is number one: I think it's so important that you build a platform because when you're going to that publisher and you have a message that you're going to get out there to the world, you want to come alongside that publisher you want to talk with the publisher about how your going to help the publisher sell the book.

KariAnne: [00:20:51] You are going to help the publisher markets a book. Because just I think traditionally in the past sometimes you know authors they would send the manuscript to the publisher and then they would kind of sit back and wait for the publisher to do all the work.

KariAnne: [00:21:05] Or in the case of self publishing, I mean they would probably do a huge majority of the work themselves but it would be so expensive to put all that money up front to get your book published to design your cover and all the all of that stuff.

KariAnne: [00:21:18] So my best advice would be to start with your platform. Work on developing your platform work on developing your message work on developing your print your brand. So when you go into meetings with that publishing house you can say "hey this is what I'm bringing to the table".

KariAnne: [00:21:35] My second piece of advice would be to get an agent. I have the most incredible agent. So fortuitous to find her and she has just really been the world to me.

KariAnne: [00:21:49] The agent kind of knows the ins and out of the publishing world and they give you great advice and they know which publishing houses. I mean they make recommendations they make contacts for you at publishing houses.

How to develop your platform as a blogger

KariAnne: [00:22:01] And really those two things work on you're developing a platform. You bring something to the table don't just go to the publishing house and expect them to do all the work you show up.

Jillian: [00:22:12] OK. All right so let's unpack this a little bit. OK. You start your blog. You start working on your platform which means your email list your social media. You know growing those platforms.

KariAnne: [00:22:32] I think it's more than when I say build a platform. I think that numbers are very important. I mean obviously if I'm coming to you and I say I have X amount of people on Facebook or X amount of people on Instagram you know I think that's definitely important.

KariAnne: [00:22:47] But I think the key components that so many of us miss in this world of blogging and social media and platforms is the influence is the influence factor. So I always tell people if you gave me a thousand loyal readers I could rule the world.

How to find one thousand true fans as a blogger

KariAnne: [00:23:05] And when I say that, I mean a thousand people that want what I have, that want to hear my message, that show up every day and they stand up and they're counted.

KariAnne: [00:23:15] So when I was looking at developing my brand and developing my platform those were the people that I was looking for. When I was growing my blog I treated those people like they were my customers.

KariAnne: [00:23:28] So if they had a decorating question, I didn't charge them for decorating advice. I really gave it. I spent hours putting together ways to help them or answer anybody's question they sent me.

KariAnne: [00:23:39] I think I have a thing on my blog where I say "calling all questions" this is an unlimited question policy here at Thistlewood Farms, because those readers are the customers.

KariAnne: [00:23:48] And I think people overlook that they just put messages out there and expect, "I wonder why no one's reading me," or "Wonder why no one is responding to me?"

KariAnne: [00:23:56] It's because they are not in a relationship with those readers. They are not treating those readers with the respect that they deserve. And so I went out of my way to build that sort of platform.

Jillian: [00:24:07] I think that is terrific in fact if you read my emails you see that I have actually sent out I think two e-mails about this concept of a thousand true fans. If you have a thousand true fans you can build a business.

Jillian: [00:24:23] You do not need millions of fans. You need true evangelists. People who love you, believe in you, will buy from you. That's what you need for a business. I think that is just terrific advice.

KariAnne: [00:24:37] Well, and so what I did was so, for example, and this applies not only in the publishing world but it applies and in the brand world as well. So I'll just give you one example, when I was looking to paint my house a color I went to my fans and I went to the people that read the blog and I said "What color would you paint the house?"

KariAnne: [00:24:55] I gave them six options and we had over 700 people chime in. Not for a prize, not because we were giving anything away just because they wanted to be helpful. They wanted to show up and represent.

KariAnne: [00:25:08] So I was able to go back to that brand and say, look 700 people are invested in what color I paint.

Jillian: [00:25:15] Wow. Wow.

KariAnne: [00:25:16] And I think that is the key component. So when you're talking to publishing houses, I mean that same applies in working with brands as well. You're saying to them I'm an influencer. I have the ability to influence people's buying decisions and I think that is a key component that is so overlooked when you're dealing with anyone.

Jillian: [00:25:39] What's interesting is when we first started talking, you said start with your platform. And I said oh you know social media, email list and you're like, "No no no wait," I thought you were going to say really clarify your message. But that's not what you said.

ADVICE: Be authentic as a blogger

Jillian: [00:25:56] You said be authentic, be available. Really, you focused it on your fans not on your business and what your message was. Which I think is a really interesting differentiator.

KariAnne: [00:26:11] Well I definitely think the message is important. When I counsel people on how to start a business or how to start a blog I always tell them, start as you go, like don't don't pull the rug out from under your readers.

KariAnne: [00:26:24] In other words don't be all this direction and then all of sudden change midstream and like one day you're positive, full of energy and the next day you're complaining, you know.

KariAnne: [00:26:33] Start as you go, develop that message, be true to who you are. But I do feel like if you're authentic and you are all about the people that are reading your blog, or participating in your business, the message authentically comes out.

Jillian: [00:26:49] I agree. I agree. Again I think that the focus on your audience your community is really powerful.

KariAnne: [00:26:58] I mean I literally was in tears when my first book was released and it was a best seller and it was on Amazon. You know at the top of the list and it had like the best seller tag on it.

KariAnne: [00:27:12] People were screen shotting it and sending it to me and I was weeping because all of these people they weren't just celebrating the book. They were coming along for the journey. They're like "how can we help you get your message out there?"

KariAnne: [00:27:30] And so it was as if you sat down with a thousand of your best friends and they're like, dude how can we help you?

Jillian: [00:27:37] Wow.

KariAnne: [00:27:38] "You've helped us all these years, how can we help you?" And I have never felt so humbled and so grateful and so appreciative and in my whole life than during that first book release.

Jillian: [00:27:48] So let's look at that. You're making me tear up here.

KariAnne: [00:27:53] I love it.

Jillian: [00:27:54] So let's talk about this. So from the beginning you are cultivating this community that you care deeply about and that therefore in turn cares deeply about you.

Jillian: [00:28:05] So you say to yourself, I want to write a book. And then what? How do you get an agent? How do you pitch yourself to publishers? How do you tell that publisher, "I've got these diehard fans?"

KariAnne: [00:28:18] I think before we unpack that, I think an important component here is and this is something I try to explain this to people, I wish I could tell you I was a super incredibly brilliant person that sat down with this totally mapped out plan to get to the book. But it was so organically grown.

KariAnne: [00:28:36] So I start a blog. I'm writing about decorating and actually I'm writing about nothing. I'm kind of writing about my toes sometimes like I mean a very lame messaging going on.

KariAnne: [00:28:48] One day I remember I wrote a post "Don't you think I have very long toes?" and people were like "you do have long toes!" and so I had to hone my message a little bit.

KariAnne: [00:28:57] But over time what happened was one day I told a story about something just because I'm kind of a storyteller. But I'm a decorating blog so I was like, How am I going to incorporate these stories? Do people even care about stories like this even a thing? And no one else was telling stories.

KariAnne: [00:29:15] And so I told a story on my blog and the response was incredible. People were like oh my gosh like this is crazy. Tell more stories. What else are you doing? What other funny story you have? What else is going on in your life?

Write a blog you want to read

KariAnne: [00:29:27] And then the blog became kind of this hybrid of I would talk to you and show you these beautiful decorating pictures and then randomly tell you a story about how I stepped in dog poop and it was just like organically grown because it was a kind of blog that I wanted to read.

KariAnne: [00:29:43] I didn't want to read a blog that said here are my curtains. Here's my rug. I wanted to write. I wanted a little meat. I wanted something interesting to go along with my curtains.

KariAnne: [00:29:56] And so that's how the stories were kind of born. So I mean I think in the back of my mind I always had a dream about writing a book but it wasn't until this story started really taking off and I saw that that amazing wonderful community of people that read the blog really responded to the stories.

KariAnne: [00:30:12] It's like the decorating brought them to the blog and the lifestyle brought them to their blog.

Jillian: [00:30:17] And the beautiful photos and aspiration tips and I get it. But there is more. There is you!

KariAnne: [00:30:24] But then you show up and I'm like hey take a seat in my living room and let me tell you let me entertain you.

Jillian: [00:30:30] Right.

KariAnne: [00:30:32] Let me tell you how I'm sliding down a hill after I spoke at a conference and ended up with mud all over my butt. You know, let me entertain you with my life, like these real actual things that happen to me every day of my life.

KariAnne: [00:30:44] And so it really that was the combination that people really responded to, and so I thought maybe I could write a book. But I didn't know how to go about it.

KariAnne: [00:30:53] So I did a little bit of research and actually reached out to some friends of mine and one of my friends was in the process of writing a book and I said, "How did you get started?"

KariAnne: [00:31:01] She said the first thing is you want to find an agent. And so she gave me a bunch of different literary agencies and I wrote the most incredible pitch letter ever.

Jillian: [00:31:12] OK.

KariAnne: [00:31:14] It was quite entertaining. And I sent it out to these agencies to see if anybody would take a bite because this is an unknown world to me, this is something that is very different. I'm so thankful an amazing agency picked me up and I met my agent and really she kind of mapped everything out.

KariAnne: [00:31:33] She was really instrumental because I didn't know where to start and she sat me down and said we're going to do this, and we're going to do this, and we're gonna do this, and you know for example the next step is you have to write a book proposal.

How to write a book proposal

KariAnne: [00:31:42] Well a book proposal is very intimidating for anyone who's never written one before. I mean they say that's what separates kind of the serious people from the not so serious people because the typical book proposal is about 10,000 words.

Jillian: [00:31:55] Wow.

KariAnne: [00:31:55] So it took me probably about four months to write the book proposal which is, like it was overwhelming. And my agent, her name is Ruth, she kept gently nudging me like, "Hey haven't heard from you on that book proposal yet, how's it going?"

KariAnne: [00:32:15] And I just kept going and putting one foot in front of the other. And I think probably the hardest thing about writing a book is when you write a blog post it's 350 words and there's a beginning a middle and an end and you're done and you walk away. When you write a book it's 50,000 words.

KariAnne: [00:32:32] And it's a beginning and then a whole lot of words. And then a middle and then a whole lot of work and then the end. So you got to shift your thinking a little bit.

KariAnne: [00:32:43] But we we did the proposal and then she sends it out to different contacts that she has in the publishing world. And then we got some bids on the book and we looked at them and selected an incredible offer and went with that. And then the whole book writing process started.

Jillian: [00:33:02] OK and how long did the book writing process take?

KariAnne: [00:33:05] Well I'm kind of a fast writer just because I mean you've got to think of it this way, I was in training to write a book. I mean I write five blog posts a week. So that's training yourself to sit at the computer and write 400 words every day or five days a week.

KariAnne: [00:33:21] And so I had done that for year after year after year so when they told me, you have to sit down and here's when your first chapter is due and here's when your second chapter is due and I pretty much stuck to my deadline.

KariAnne: [00:33:32] I hear in the world, I don't know this for a fact, but I had heard that a lot of sometimes people don't stick to their deadlines.

Jillian: [00:33:38] I've heard that too. Yes.

KariAnne: [00:33:40] They get overwhelming, but I was pretty on it. And so I think the whole process of actually writing the book maybe took about nine months.

Jillian: [00:33:49] OK. And what is the first book called?

The book: So Close To Amazing

KariAnne: [00:33:53] The first book is called So Close To Amazing. And it's actually a memoir. It's a memoir so it's trade paper which in publishing house terms means like it's a book book, was like writing and it's not for color. There are words and chapters and that type of thing.

Jillian: [00:34:13] So it's not just a DIY book?

KariAnne: [00:34:15] No it's a like a memoir, it's about my life it's about us moving. It's the story that I told you except with way more stories along the way.

Jillian: [00:34:24] OK. OK.

KariAnne: [00:34:26] Way more adventures in about. It's all about at the end of the day, the overarching message of the book is learning how to celebrate right where we are and realizing that the me of today is perfect.

KariAnne: [00:34:40] I mean I think so many times, and that's what this book is about: The book was, we jumped to the country and I expect when we moved to the country everything's going to be perfect, and I'm going to be growing my own grain and I arrive in the country like, "wait, life is not exactly how I thought it was going to be" and I thought I was going to make friends and that didn't exactly work out.

KariAnne: [00:34:58] It was like I was always looking for this amazing. Like I was like, Oh tomorrow is going to be amazing, if we just finished the house I'm going to be amazing, if I could lose another like 20 pounds I'll be amazing, if my hair was a little longer I'd be amazing.

KariAnne: [00:35:11] And along the way and part of this whole journey was I discovered that the amazing was right there.

Jillian: [00:35:19] Wow.

KariAnne: [00:35:19] The amazing was the journey.

Jillian: [00:35:23] Wow. Yes. I love that. I love that. That's amazing!

KariAnne: [00:35:32] So I had been so close to amazing all along. There's the book.

Jillian: [00:35:37] Right. So this book though, did it have photos of your beautiful house? Did it also have DIY? Or was it really just about your journey?

KariAnne: [00:35:48] Well you know you read those books and at the end of each of the chapters they'll have a recipe.

Jillian: [00:35:56] Yes, Ruth Reichl is one of my favorite writers and she's a food writer and she always puts her favorite recipes.

KariAnne: [00:36:03] Yes. And so you always think you can have these recipes. Well when you read the book you'll understand I'm a horrific cook. Like I mean absolutely positively horrible cook. And so there was no putting any recipes like that would have been horrible.

KariAnne: [00:36:19] So I put DIYs at the end of each chapter that I talk about in each of the chapters I work that DIY into the chapter.

Jillian: [00:36:27] I love that. I love that.

KariAnne: [00:36:30] And at the end is a DIY. The book is also full of total asides which is the way I talk, so I'll be in the middle of a story and then I'll be like total aside. Did you really like Shaun Cassidy when you were younger? You know like, why random thoughts, people were like wait where was she going?

Jillian: [00:36:46] Oh that's terrific.

KariAnne: [00:36:48] So yeah it's a little, I don't know if you remember there was a lady named Erma Bombeck.

Jillian: [00:36:51] Yes yes.

KariAnne: [00:36:53] It's a little like her.

Jillian: [00:36:54] Oh OK. So you launched this first book. And again what I think is so interesting is, yes you are DIY, yes you have a great eye, yes you take beautiful photos, but there's a there there.

Jillian: [00:37:08] There's a you with a message and you're living your life and you're sharing your life and you're going that extra mile, you're connecting.

Blogging for comments and connection

KariAnne: [00:37:18] Yes. Well I have been so blessed. It all started with the first little person who left a comment on my blog. And then you know some people blog for money some people blog for their egos. I blog for comments.

Jillian: [00:37:34] Yeah.

KariAnne: [00:37:36] Shameful.

Jillian: [00:37:36] No, I get it. Oh my god I get like if if somebody emails me and says "I read your email" and it was somebody today, just emailed me and said "I really need it"

Jillian: [00:37:47] It was something about I wrote an email. It's a sequence and there's one about Instagram, and it's like you have to show up for Instagram and somebody wrote back to me goes, "I really needed to hear this today." And I sit here and I just read that and I go "awww" and I write back and I just go "thank you so much."

KariAnne: [00:38:05] Wow. Right.

Jillian: [00:38:09] I love those. And I have a file I save called Love Letters where I will go through them on a bad day and I'll read them.

KariAnne: [00:38:19] Me too! OK. Mine isn't called love letters. Mine is called KariAnne You're Amazing.

Jillian: [00:38:27] Because there is something about it. Even why I love the podcast, just because I get to connect. And then if other people get to hear it and learn from it. I'm so happy about that.

Jillian: [00:38:39] But at the end of the day, like being a blogger can be lonely having a company or multiple companies. It can be lonely. And so if I can hear other people's stories and if I can impart little bits of wisdom by being in the trenches. You know I feel like I've done my job for the day.

KariAnne: [00:39:02] Well OK so I'm going to be totally shameful and transparent here. So sometimes I write a blog post especially if it's a good story.

KariAnne: [00:39:10] And when you email me when you comment on the blog it leaves it has an email that comes through on my phone. And so I'll set the post to publish. And every time there's an email the phone will ding.

KariAnne: [00:39:23] So the the post will go live. I don't know maybe seven and go out by email by like 7:15 and I lay there and I hear. Ding! Ding! Ding! And I'm like Yay! KariAnne, they're commenting! So yeah there's no greater joy for sure.

Jillian: [00:39:42] I agree. And I think that there's you know what's so interesting is in every one of my podcasts I feel like I learn, and I step away with like a new realization and I feel like from this conversation that realization is the more you put yourself out there, and be vulnerable and be human the more you welcome people putting themselves out there and being human.

KariAnne: [00:40:11] I 100 percent agree and I think what being online so much has taught me is that we live in a world where there are so many people that are hurting, and there are so many people that are not being heard. They're not being validated.

KariAnne: [00:40:27] And you know it's almost like they're walking through life without someone taking a moment to say, "Hey look you're amazing. You got it."

KariAnne: [00:40:36] And there is a post I wrote one time and I said the first line of it I think is just "In case no one else had mentioned it yet today like no one has said it. You're a rock star." Like let me be that person. Let me go first. You're incredible. You're funny. There is something you can do better than anyone else in this entire world.

KariAnne: [00:40:54] And the response to that post was incredible because I feel like we as human beings have this longing for connection and we want our voices to be heard and we want people to understand us.

KariAnne: [00:41:10] And so when somebody comes along and goes hey I'm gonna love you right where you're at. I'm going to accept you right where you are. I think that that is such an important message.

Jillian: [00:41:20] And I think because we are so hard on ourselves. I was just having this conversation with somebody, I was at the Mom2.0 conference and I was talking to a woman and we were talking about if somebody could hear our own voices in her own heads, how horrified they would be.

Jillian: [00:41:39] You know the messages we are telling ourselves of were not good enough and we're not thin enough and we're not young enough or good whatever, if somebody could hear that they would stop you and say "Stop it!"

Jillian: [00:41:53] That is abusive, but somehow it's OK for us to do it within ourselves because nobody really can really hear it. And so this idea of, if only I could, like you, If only I could finish my house. If only I could move to the country and grow my own grains. I will be happy.

Happiness has to happen right now

Jillian: [00:42:20] And it's about really changing that perspective of saying no, happiness has to happen right now.

KariAnne: [00:42:26] Well and it's funny, because back when I was telling you about the house trying to make the house cuter. I actually wrote a post on the blog and I had the twins for their first dance.

KariAnne: [00:42:36] I had all these parents coming over. They were doing like a pre-dance party at our house and we hadn't really shown the house to anybody, and I spent days and days trying to make the house cute.

KariAnne: [00:42:48] I would be like. "Come on House we're going to show them. We're going to show them we're cute." I was painting walls and putting up curtains and doing all this, and you know what happened?

KariAnne: [00:43:00] People got here, and they walked around the house and all of a sudden these two beautiful adorable sweet identical twin daughters came down the stairs with their hearts in their eyes and these beautiful smiles on their faces. And no one's paying attention of the house, right.

Jillian: [00:43:19] Right. Yes. You just gave me goosebumps.

KariAnne: [00:43:21] The house was already cute enough. It was already cute enough. And here I was so obsessed and worrying about that, when I should have just paused and thought you know what the house and I were on a journey, and here are these beautiful girls and the day really is about them. Not about making your house cute right.

Jillian: [00:43:41] Right. Oh I love that. Oh I love that. I want to say I have learned so much from you.

KariAnne: [00:43:51] Oh I love that because I'm a little in awe of you. I could I could just sit at your feet and learn from you for sure ,you are amazing with everything you have accomplished.

Jillian: [00:44:02] We will have to do a part two for sure.

KariAnne: [00:44:05] Oh that would be awesome.

Jillian: [00:44:06] So tell people, because again, we have much more to talk about. So tell people about your books and the books that are coming and then how people can reach out to you. Because what I love is you're available.

KariAnne: [00:44:21] Yes 100 percent. So the first book is called So Close To Amazing and it's a memoir. It's a faith based book. I touch on my faith in the book. It's a faith based publisher called Tyndale.

KariAnne: [00:44:34] This second book is all about decorating. It's called the DIY Decorate It Yourself Planner and it's literally the sassy girl's guide to decorating.

KariAnne: [00:44:45] One of the chapters starts and it says, space planning is a lot like wearing Spanx to your high school reunion, like absolutely necessary. So there's a lot of like not intimidating. I kind of bring you along with me on my journey of decorating this house.

KariAnne: [00:45:05] There are very specific things in there, like specific guidelines for how to choose a paint color, and how to plan out your spaces and how high to hang your chandelier over your dining room table and amazing stuff like that.

KariAnne: [00:45:18] And the third book is actually a devotional book.

Jillian: [00:45:20] Okay wait, I need that book. I need that book as we make our move to Austin.

KariAnne: [00:45:25] OK. It's yours. I'll send it to you.

Jillian: [00:45:27] I know nothing. I know nothing about the chandelier.

KariAnne: [00:45:30] And I'll be available on speed dial.

Jillian: [00:45:32] OK. I love it. I love it. I love it. OK.

KariAnne: [00:45:37] You are kinda my neighbor.

Jillian: [00:45:37] Yes. Oh my God. We will meet up together.

KariAnne: [00:45:41] Yeah for sure.

KariAnne: [00:45:43] The third book that's coming out. It's a devotional book but it's all just stories of encouragement. And it's called You've Got This Because God's Got You.

KariAnne: [00:45:53] And then the last or the fourth book is actually, which I'm so excited about, I cannot wait for you to see it. It's a four color beautiful coffee table book. And it's called The Style Finder and it's, we traveled all over the country and photographed different bloggers houses.

KariAnne: [00:46:12] And there's a whole questionnaire with what's your style? What your decorating style? And then we walk you through. Once you're we kind of pick out what's your favorite decorating style. We walk through, like here's your living room in this style. Here's your bedroom in the style. Here's your bathroom in the style and tips to kind of combine styles, too.

Jillian: [00:46:29] OK that's fabulous. OK so then how can people reach out to you?

KariAnne: [00:46:36] They can email me at If you go on there, there's a contact form that they can just get right to me, or they can actually my email address is but they can go to the blog and there's a contact form.

KariAnne: [00:46:52] And they can message me on Facebook, if they want to message me on Instagram with any decorating questions, I seriously could talk decorating, I mean till the cows come home as we say in Kentucky. And that's true. You come home.

Jillian: [00:47:11] Thank you so much for being on the show.

KariAnne: [00:47:14] It was absolutely my joy and my honor.

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