066: Dr. Jennifer Pieratt Keeps It Real with PBL

How to Use a Book to Grow Your Company

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Dr. Jennifer Pieratt is the founder of CraftED, a project-based learning (PBL) curriculum. She’s the author of Keep It Real with PBL. Today, she shares her story about how she got into project-based learning, the power of leveraging your book to grow your business, and why it’s important to keep it real.

What We Discuss with Dr. Jennifer Pieratt:

  • What is Project-Based Learning?
  • The impetus behind her transition from teaching kids to supporting adults
  • The writing and publishing process of her book
  • The benefits of going to a traditional publisher
  • Jenny’s book marketing strategy
  • How you can get to your target audience
  • Going into her own personal writing retreat to get her book done
  • Her greatest challenge in writing her book
  • Leveraging her book in growing her business
  • The power of branding yourself and staying relevant
  • Why self-publishing is a great learning experience

[00:55] What is Project-Based Learning?

Teaching at a traditional public school, Jenny has already been doing project-based learning (PBL) approach before it even became a thing.

Although she was teaching 5th-10th grade and Humanities on a secondary level, she spent the bulk of her time teaching 10th grade.

Jenny says the definition for PBL is pretty different for everybody. She personally defines it as a real-world based learning experience for students. It’s highly engaging and highly applicable to the world around them.

Learning PBL has quite a steep learning curve in terms of how to make it manageable and sustainable.

Jenny eventually realized that working with adults can have a slow change and you don’t get immediate results. However, she saw how much bigger impact it had on a district level.

[05:22] Writing and Publishing the Book

Jenny wrote her first book so she can have something that she can leave behind for other teachers. It picked up and she was able to sell over 3,000 copies just on her website.

Hoping to reach a wider audience, she decided to go with traditional publishing. When a publisher finally picked her up, it took her 4-5 months to feel okay with letting go of her “baby.” But she was happy to have worked with a great editor and felt her work has really been honored.

The big thing for Jenny as to why she chose traditional publishing was its shelf-life. She knew she could only push herself so much in terms of reaching out to teachers.

[12:18] Marketing the Book

Jenny’s marketing strategy is to pretend her publisher is not going to do anything. She’s now doing her part in dropping hints about the book on social media and across newsletters. She does podcast interviews and book launch events as well.

She practically knows her demographics based on analytics. So far, what has given traction for her is leveraging social media, especially with the use of hashtags to get on the channels where the audience shows up the most.

[14:35] Jenny’s Writing Plan

She went on her own personal writing retreat where she checked in the hotel for 3 days and wrote for 18 hours straight.

Her ideas were spinning in her head and everything was fresh. She printed out her book and taped it all around the room so she could see them laid out. She also had sticky notes for her to add ideas on.

Then she sends a picture to her husband each night and marks what she had completed with X so she can see her progress.

[17:05] The Biggest Hurdles

Patience is huge for Jenny. It’s hard for her to sit back and wait for other people to move things through and just working on other people’s timelines.

Since she has gone with the traditional publisher, she was allowed to continue professional development and make e-courses. But in terms of the written words, the publisher holds permission on it. Hence, she won’t be able to continue to sell her workbook once the second book is in print.

Her husband helped her through the process of negotiation and she also had a few lawyer friends who gave her some pieces of legal advice.

[21:21] Leveraging a Book to Grow Your Business

Jenny launched a series of e-Courses that she hopes to continue to grow. She’s also looking to some speaking opportunities.

With this book, she hopes to be able to establish herself as an expert.

[22:46] The Power of Branding and Staying Relevant

Staying relevant is a big driving voice for her book. This is actually how her title of Keep It Real came up. She’s been told by her friend that people love her because she keeps it real.

People want your authentic self and what you stand for because it’s different than what they’re hearing.

Just be you and keep it real!

[25:19] Urging Schools to Make a Change

Jenny recently wrote a blog post called, Why PBL Makes Me Unapologetic for which she is unapologetic when it comes down to these three things:

  • serving the kids
  • empowering teachers
  • shifting communities

[26:50] Final Words of Wisdom

There is great value in self-publishing because it helps you figure out what worked and what didn’t work. Because of this, she didn’t go blindly into the process of just signing all her ideas away.

It takes discipline and hustle to self-publish but it’s a great learning experience that can help you once you decide to go for a traditional publisher down the road.

Episode Resources:

Why PBL Makes Me Unapologetic by Jennifer Pieratt

Know more about Jenny on CraftED or connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Listen on:

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