Writing your own rules after rejection with Happy Go Money author Melissa Leong

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Happy Go Money author Melissa Leong shares the story of how her teen novels were rejected by mainstream publishers, but went on to sell over 70,000 copies after she decided to take control of her own career. Plus everyday social media tips to be happier no matter how much money you have or don’t have. 

In Melissa's money story you will learn:

  • How she was able to succeed in publishing her book trilogy against the odds

  • The things she learned by self publishing that she wouldn't have learned otherwise

  • By self publishing she learned she could build a brand and make money for herself outside of a salary

  • How she actually got paid more self publishing than going through a big name publisher

In Melissa’s money lesson you will learn:

  • Why it's so important to make investing in yourself more of a priority - whether it be your health or your happiness

  • Dreams seem huge in the beginning, but keep going and be sure to break bigger goals into bite sized chunks

In Melissa's everyday money tip you will learn:

  • Why she says everything on social media is a lie and how muting certain people can in turn fill your feed with people that make you feel good.

In My Take you will learn:

  • Inventory your stuff

  • Delete your credit card info form your browser so you have to enter it each time you want to buy something

Episode Links:

Check out Melissa's website -

www.MelissaLeong.com

Follow Melissa!

 
 
Happy Go Money author Melissa Leong shares the story of how her teen novels were rejected by mainstream publishers, but went on to sell over 70,000 copies after she decided to take control of her own career. Plus everyday social media tips to be happier no matter how much money you have or don’t have. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you’ll learn the things you can do to create your happiness. #Happiness #Author

Happy Go Money author Melissa Leong shares the story of how her teen novels were rejected by mainstream publishers, but went on to sell over 70,000 copies after she decided to take control of her own career. Plus everyday social media tips to be happier no matter how much money you have or don’t have. In this Financial Grownup podcast episode you’ll learn the things you can do to create your happiness. #Happiness #Author

 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

Transcription

Melissa Leong:
You can't wait around to make the perfect amount of money. You can't wait around for your boss to give you that raise, for you to be happy.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, Certified Financial Planner Bobbi Rebell, author of How to Be a Financial Grownup. And you know what? Being a grownup is really hard, especially when it comes to money. But it's okay; we're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson, and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hello, everyone. Truth: So many of us feel, as our guest implied at the open, that if we just had X more dollars, whether it's $5, $5,000, $50,000, whatever it is, the stress, the tension, the worries would all go away, and we would be happy. Guess what, guys? You know this. That is a lie that we tell ourselves.

Bobbi Rebell:
Welcome, everyone. And to our new listeners, thank you for checking out the show. We keep it short, around 15 minutes, because you're busy. But if you have a little more time, stack a few shows together to fit whatever you're doing while you're listening. Maybe you're commuting, working out. Whatever it is, make this show your own. Listen to it for the amount of time that is right for you.

Bobbi Rebell:
Now to our awesome guest. She is Canadian journalist Melissa Leong. She has a fantastic new book called Happy Go Money. Even the title makes me happy. It's actually ironic because, as you're going to hear, we call her out on this. She's known to her friends and her family as kind of a Debbie Downer, kind of a negative, glass-is-half-empty kind of person, but she decided not to be. We get to learn from her why, and how that's changed her outlook on money and on life. Here is Melissa Leong.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, Melissa Leong. You're at Financial Grownup; welcome to the podcast.

Melissa Leong:
Thank you so much for having me, Bobbi. I'm very excited.

Bobbi Rebell:
You are a trooper, because as we record this, you are one day away from your due date with your second child. You get the gold star for that. You are promoting your new book. You're a Canadian journalist, for those in the US that don't know you, but this podcast is global. We have listeners, thank you all listeners for being with us from around the world, including Canada. You are the author of Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right, and Enjoy Life. And by the way, this is already in reprint. So congratulations on the success of the book.

Melissa Leong:
Oh, thank you. I'm grateful. I just wanted to write something that would make people happy, so I hope it's doing that.

Bobbi Rebell:
This is the thing. I was reading it yesterday, and it made me happy, because you had a lot of ... I don't know that I'd call them wellness tips, but just little ways that you can frame things in your life that make it a lot more, well, happy, for lack of a better word. It just made me feel better as I was reading. You give people tools. And the irony, Melissa, is that you also call yourself, I think the word is a negatron. So you're a negative person, but you wrote the happy book?

Melissa Leong:
I did. I'm a journalist, so I got into journalism so I could basically complain for a living, right? Complain about all the things that are wrong with the world. But I think that was one of the criticisms I got when I was first working on the book. People thought, "Well, you're such a happy person, Melissa. Of course you can write a book about being happy." And I thought, "No. I have to work to be happy, and so does the rest of the world." So I've got some tips on how to work on happiness, and how it relates to money.

Bobbi Rebell:
Which is all good. We're going to get back to some of the specific content of the book later in the podcast. But I want to get to your money story, because this is actually not your very first book. This is your first book published by a sort of mainstream, traditional publisher, but you actually had a very successful teen trilogy. And by the way, it was, I think the vast majority, 90% of the sales of it were in the United States. You sold something like 70,000 copies. But the behind-the-scenes was not all happy. Tell us your money story, Melissa.

Melissa Leong:
I tried to shop this around. It's a vampire series, during the time ... Well, it was the tail end of Twilight, so no publisher wanted another vampire book. So I got a lot of nos, in which case I was faced with this decision of, what is my dream worth? I want to get this done, so what am I willing to invest in myself? So I created a budget of how much I would spend on, pay a designer to create a cover, to publish it myself, to put it out into the world.

Melissa Leong:
I self-published it, and yes, it turned out, in more ways than one, to be a great, great experience, something that I consider a success in my life. Something that I could check off my bucket list. And I still get the occasional check in the mail, even though I don't do all that much work publicizing it. I did make my money back and then some, and it was basically a great gift that I could give to myself, just in terms of learning that I could build a brand, make money for myself outside of a salary, and take those tools and make more money in another career.

Bobbi Rebell:
Tell us more about the journey. Did you write it first, and then you went to different publishers? How did it actually work? And how did the economics change between, if you had gotten a deal with a traditional publisher versus your own situation where you were self-publishing? What did that actually involve from a business and an economic standpoint, and a marketing standpoint?

Melissa Leong:
I think people don't realize that when you go and you create any product, you are entering into a business. You're your own business. You're your own publisher. I learned so much about being my own marketing department, my own publishing, and quality control, and PR, and that all requires resources, time and money. So yeah, I didn't have a publisher to push my books, but because I was doing everything myself, I had full control, and I had a huge percentage of the cut of sales. A traditional publisher might give you 7% off of the book selling price, but say you publish through Amazon, you get 70%, depending on what you price the book at. That was really rewarding.

Bobbi Rebell:
I realize we were talking about PR for the book. We didn't say what the book title was, and where people can get it. We should say that, right?

Melissa Leong:
Yes. It's still on Amazon. The first book is called What Kills Me, and the second is I Am Forever. It's a teen adventure novel. It's based on a vampire story.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love that. So what is the lesson for our listeners from your story? How can they apply it to their own lives?

Melissa Leong:
The same lesson that I have when it comes to happiness. I think we sit around waiting for external factors to fulfill us, and that's not how life will serve you best. You can't wait around to make the perfect amount of money. You can't wait around for your boss to give you that raise, for you to be happy. Happiness is for you to fulfill for yourself. It's the same thing with any of your goals or your dreams. They all seem lofty, and they all seem huge in the beginning, but you have to take that first step. You turn on the heat, and if you turn off the heat before the water boils, the water will never boil. You just have to keep going. You break everything down into some sort of small, bite-sized goal, like writing a 60,000-word book in six months. That was my goal, and I thought, "That is ridiculous. How am I going to do that?"

Melissa Leong:
Well, I broke it down to the smallest thing. Every single day, five days a week, I have to write 500 words. There you go. If, by the end of the day, I haven't written 500 words of something for this novel, then I didn't feel good. I also had a partner who I could check in with, and say, "I met my goal today. Yay. Somebody keep me accountable." It was something very tangible to do in a very short period of time.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love that. Let's move on to your everyday money tip, because this is something that is so relatable to pretty much everyone, and that is the sort of social media FOMO that we all get, if we're being honest, sometimes. Some more than others, but we all have friends out there that have such fabulous ... Their lives are so much more fabulous than ours, Melissa.

Melissa Leong:
No, they're not. They're not; the Internet lies. It's a lie.

Bobbi Rebell:
You actually say that in your book. I think that's the line. What do you say? Everything on social media is a lie?

Melissa Leong:
It's all curated, right? You could filter, you could change anything, you could airbrush your face so it's perfect. You could rent a private jet just to take an Instagram photo in. It is not the best tool to gauge your life, even though it's human beings according to research and science. It shows that we naturally compare ourselves to other people. It is a evolutionary gift that we use our peers as a way to figure out, "Well, how are we doing? What should we be doing with our own behavior and our own lives?" But with social media, now you can compare yourself to anybody. Anybody famous, anybody with infinite resources, and anybody who can fake stuff, because you have all sorts of tools.

Bobbi Rebell:
Right. But you have a great everyday money tip for this, to make us not spend money to keep up with our friends. Because you actually admit in the book that you've bought stuff because you saw friends having it.

Melissa Leong:
Absolutely. That is totally natural. There is a study that shows that if you live beside somebody who's won the lottery, you are more apt to go bankrupt, because you're also spending on tangible, visible assets, even though you have not won any money. It is something that we beat ourselves up for, but it's something that you can control. You can put a tracker on your phone to see how much time you spend on social media. You can mute the people on social media who make you feel kind of jealous, who make you feel bad about yourself, who don't share your values. You can fill your feed with things that are uplifting, things that inspire you.

Melissa Leong:
If you find yourself comparing yourself to other people, then choose what specific attributes that they have, that you admire. Don't admire somebody because they're rich. Admire them because they have some sort of tenacity, or some sort of perseverance quality that you think that you would like more of in your own life.

Bobbi Rebell:
Right. And the everyday money tip is to mute the people that are making you want to spend, which is a great tip.

Melissa Leong:
Yeah. Not only in social media, but just fill your time with people who make you feel good about yourself.

Bobbi Rebell:
Let's talk more about Happy Go Money, because it is a really happy book. But also, you're pretty sassy in the book, Melissa, along with other things. It's so entertaining. Truthful, but you nail it. I love what ... Your niece wanted to grow up to be ...

Melissa Leong:
She told me what she wanted to be, and I thought, "Oh, that's amazing. A VP. Isn't that cool. "

Bobbi Rebell:
A VP, right.

Melissa Leong:
"No, I meant a V-I-P. I want to get into parties. I want free clothes. I want to go to all of the ... I just want to be rich and famous." And I thought, "Oh, okay." But you know what? She's not alone in that. There are a lot of surveys that show that American young individuals have that aspiration. Their first aspiration is to be rich, and the second one is to be famous.

Melissa Leong:
I think we've always associated money with value, money with happiness. I think it's just sort of incumbent on all of us to look at ourselves. I think it's harder with the next generations, because you don't have the filter on what you're surrounding yourself with, which is social media. But even for each of us to look at, "Okay. What fulfills us in life?" What makes you happy in life? If you're just using money as a tool to be happy, what actually makes you happy, so that you know that you're buying or spending on the right things? If you think about the last week, what were you happiest doing? If it was spending time with your friends, then should you be allocating all your resources to some outfit or some thing, versus trying to spend more time to bond with your friends, or have a new and unique experience with them, for example?

Bobbi Rebell:
Yeah. And in fact, one of the things in the book is you basically talk about having a group of friends that have the same values, that support you. At the end of each chapter, you go through little checkpoints, and it's frequently things that have to do with that support group and checking in with them, and having that continuity and that sort of, looking in the mirror and making sure everyone's still kind of on the same page, and keeping you grounded.

Melissa Leong:
Absolutely. We're in an ecosystem together; it's a community. So yes, there are studies that show that if you attack any goal, you are going to be more successful if you do it with a peer, if you do it with peer support. So yes, if you are trying to lose weight, if you're trying to save more money, if you're trying to get ahead in your career, get together with other men and women who are doing the same thing and who will cheer you on, and who will push you further. If you need retail therapy, instead of calling your credit card company to make sure that your limit is not maxed out, call your best friend and talk about that.

Melissa Leong:
So yes, surround yourself with people who will uplift you, who share the same values. At the same time, what you put out there, also, is important. If you're constantly putting out there on social media that you're, "Check me out, my selfie, my new outfit, and this vacation that I'm going on," and all these things, know that your friends see that. Your kids see you doing these things. They absorb the message that you're sending. Sometimes we say ... this chapter in my book that basically says, forget about the Joneses. Sometimes you have to realize, are you being the Joneses?

Bobbi Rebell:
Wow. Okay, everyone has to read this book. Tell us where we can find out more about you, my Canadian friend, and the book. The book I know is on Amazon, but tell us all your social handles and anything else we need to know to keep learning more about you and what you're doing.

Melissa Leong:
You can find me at melissaleong.com. My book, Happy Go Money, is at all major retailers including Barnes & Noble and, as you said, Amazon. I am most active on Instagram, so while I'm on maternity leave, that's where I will be present. Not obsessively, but I'm at lisleong.

Bobbi Rebell:
Love that. Thank you so much.

Melissa Leong:
Thank you so much for having me.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, friends. I loved Melissa's book so much, in case you couldn't tell. It had so much great information, amazing tips and strategies, that I'm actually going to be giving you a little bit more of her advice from Happy Go Money.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number one from Melissa: Inventory your stuff. We're not saying to do a Kon-Mari, reference to Marie Kondo, who is known for Tidying Up. Just know what you own, so you can make a decision about whether you want to own more. At least know what you have, so you don't make buying mistakes. So, for example, you don't buy something that you already have five of, you just didn't know where they were. And let's be honest, we've all done that. Make sure you know where your stuff is, so it's there for you when you need it.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup tip number two, and again from Melissa's book, Happy Go Money: Delete your credit card info from the browser on your computer, your phone, iPad, whatever you use to shop, so you have to manually enter it each time you want to buy something. What I love about this advice is that it's not about buying something, whether you need it or just want it. That's okay. It is about creating a speed bump so you have to slow down and think about the decision, and make it a thoughtful one, and it's okay to buy things.

Bobbi Rebell:
Big thanks to everyone for joining us. If you are not already subscribed, please click that button or use our amazing ... as our recommendations to friends. In fact, that is the most important thing. We love it when we hear from new listeners that a friend of theirs recommended the show, and now they are subscribing as well.

Bobbi Rebell:
If you are looking, by the way, for a new podcast to add to your lineup, please consider joining me and Joe Saul-Sehy ... you may know him from the Stacking Benjamins podcast ... on our Money in the Morning podcast. We take the headlines, and we break them down into tips that can help you live a richer life. Money in the Morning is in all the places you listen to podcasts, and here's where it gets really fun. You can actually watch us tape it live. Yes, we tape it live. It can be embarrassing at times; we make all kinds of mistakes that do not get edited out. This podcast, we edit out my mistakes. Money in the Morning, it's all there.

Bobbi Rebell:
Anyway, you can join us for a live taping. We do it right on Facebook at the Stacking Benjamins Facebook page, which is facebook.com/istackbenjamins. I would love to see you guys there. If you are watching, make sure to comment and participate in the show, and let me know that you also are a listener to Financial Grownup.

Bobbi Rebell:
Melissa Leong was such a pro. Great info delivered with grace and charm. I learned so much; I hope you guys did too. Big thanks to her for helping us all get one step closer to being financial grownups.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Stewart, and is a BRK Media production.