Today we’d like to introduce you to Len Foley.
Len, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Most people think any idiot can write a good children’s book… but it’s not as easy as it looks.
I started writing over 30 years ago. I wrote a lot back then and most of it was pretty awful.
I was so bad that I received over 1,500 rejection notices from publishers in my first ten years. I know this because I saved most of them in a binder. I keep this binder in my office in case I start to get lazy. Remembering failure can be a great motivator.
So I was a pretty bad writer for a long time and then my daughter was born and I started telling her funny stories that rhymed. We also drew funny pictures together. The stuff she repeated back to me, I’d collect in a notebook. When she started repeating longer rhymes, I realized I might have something that could make a funny book.
And that’s how Sigfried’s Smelly Socks! Was born.
Being a writer is a tough way to make a living (at least for the first 30 years) so I co-started some businesses to pay the bills.
I run a company with my wife called Longevity Warehouse® that sells superfoods and super herbs to health enthusiasts all over the world. We also run The Longevity Now® Conference in southern California that attracts thousands of people from over 20 countries in what we call “The World’s Greatest Health Show”. We also have a line of organic coffee line called Longevity Coffee®. We opened our first coffee shop this year in Thousand Oaks that is a blend of specialty Third-Wave coffee and herbal elixirs and tonic drinks.
I now work as a full-time barista/new drink formulator during the day and at night I work on my other companies; and in between, I write whenever I can.
Writing will always be my passion. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing a room full of kids giggling as someone reads them your book. But it takes a lot of work to write a kid’s book so you really need to be committed to produce something worthwhile.
Has it been a smooth road?
Rejection is never easy, but it helps if you don’t take it too personally.
At the same time, you need to realize that rejection is an important teacher. It tells you what you need to work on.
If you can listen to rejection with an open mind and make corrections in your work as needed, you will have a solid recipe for continual improvement.
It took me 30 years, but I did other things to earn a living so I had a lot of margin for error.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Longevity Coffee story. Tell us more about the business.
Our company Longevity Warehouse® was listed on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America two years in a row (2013 and 2014).
We sell high-end super foods and super herbs directly to consumers online.
But it’s our newest coffee shop that I am most proud of. For over 10 years we created these “pop up” elixir bars at our live events. We create each pop up shop from scratch, offering new drinks each time.
But during our last event I created a chocolate/coffee/herbal elixir called the “Coco Mocha”. We sold over 1,000 in two days and I realized this drink was special and unlike anything else available.
Over six months of planning goes into each bar. Then we’d run it for three days and take it down. I thought: “Instead of spending six months creating a bar that will close down after three days, Why not create a real shop and keep it running forever?”
And that’s how the Longevity Coffee Shop was born. We offer 100% organic, low acid coffee drinks and elixirs. Our highly mineralized (delicious) raw, organic chocolate is wild-harvested, jungle grown. We house-make a low-glycemic nut milk (fresh daily) and all of our drink mixes are infused with our special herbal blends to make your coffee experience not only delicious… but without the stomach pains and jittery feelings experienced with many other coffee products.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The children’s book industry is growing! And for self-published authors (like myself) there are literally 100’s of opportunities to make your book stand out amongst the thousands published each year.
If you are interested in writing books for children, I suggest following my 6 -step protocol:
1. Keep it short. My goal is to keep each book fewer than 28 pages with no more than 3-4 sentences on each page. This not only makes printing your books much cheaper, but also makes it a 4-5 minute time-investment for parents who want to read their kids several “shorter” books at bedtime.
Shorter books are more difficult to write because you have less time to tell your story. So when in doubt: cut, cut, cut… cut until you end up with the essentials of what makes your book work.
2. Make your book big and funny (if possible)! Kids love to laugh and parents love reading books that make kids laugh. I printed Sigfried’s Smelly Socks! as a 10″ x 10″ book so it would stand out on bookshelves in stores… but also be captivating to kids as the read along.
3. Draw your own pictures! Very few children’s authors write AND illustrate their own books. If you have someone else drawing your pictures, you not only must split the money you make from your book with someone else, but you also reduce your power as a writer because you will always depend on someone else to realize your vision.
You don’t need to be Picasso to illustrate your own books, you just need to doodle and have fun. That’s how I started. I was a compulsive doodler. The pics my daughter thought were the funniest went into the book. Remember, kids aren’t impressed by Monet paintings, they like doodles of potatoes and socks and things that make them smile.
4. Don’t even think about publishing your book until you’ve read it to at least 100 different kids.
Forget what adults think of your book… you need to entertain kids because they will be the ones who beg their parents to read them. If you wrote a funny book and kids don’t crack up, it’s not funny! Kids are your audience so make sure they love your material before sending it off to the printer.
5. And most important, go all the way so you stand out! If you notice my reviews on amazon.com, people either LOVE Sigfried’s Smelly Socks! or they hate it. Most reviews (80%) are 4-5 stars and around 8% of the people give it 1 or 2 stars.
The 8% that hate the book are not my core audience so I don’t care what they think. If you are writing a funny book, make it so ridiculous and weird that kids don’t forget it. Also, make sure your title is funny too. It’s gotta stick in kid’s heads so they ask for it again and again.
6. Also submit your book for awards. If you win, it’s the cheapest marketing you will ever get. Sigfried’s Smelly Socks! sold over 500 books in 2 weeks from winning the Mom’s Choice Gold Seal Award back in December.
My next book (due out in March) is called The Four Funny Potatoes and on the cover are three potatoes and a banana.
- Sigfried’s Smelly Socks for sale on Amazon $7.95: https://www.amazon.com/Sigfrieds-Smelly-Socks-Hilarious-Book-ebook/dp/B075TGLGFQ
- Address: Longevity Coffee Shop
2849 E Thousand Oaks Blvd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
- Website: https://www.longevitycoffee.com/
- Phone: (805) 836-2849
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lenfoley
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/LenFoley
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/longevity-coffee-thousand-oaks
- Other: https://www.longevitywarehouse.com