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Episode 168: Relaunching as a Published Author and Writing as a Viable Career Path, with Amy Impellizzeri

Amy Impellizzeri headshot

Episode Description

After spending thirteen years as a corporate litigator in New York City, Amy Impellizzeri left "big firm law" to write and work in a startup supporting female entrepreneurs. When her first novel, "Lemongrass Hope," debuted in October 2014 as an Amazon best-seller, Amy decided to pursue a writing career full time. She has just released her fifth novel "I Know How This Ends." We discuss how to make a living as a writer, the craft and discipline of writing a novel, agents, book contracts, publishers and more. Amy also has a non-fiction book published by the American Bar Association called "Lawyer Interrupted," a how-to guide for leaving the practice of law; something Amy says about half of all lawyers want to do.* Amy is the Past President of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, and a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, a female writers' collaborative which played an important role in Amy's evolution as a published author. Amy is a frequent speaker across the country and a faculty member of the Drexel University MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania (well scripted Amy, to pick the perfect place for a writer to reside). 

*Fun fact - Amy is working on a sequel to "Lawyer Interrupted" with none other than former lawyer now relaunched as a tenured business law professor and "Life After Law" author Liz Brown, who we interviewed in Episode 59!

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co- founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today, we welcome Amy Impellizzeri. After spending 13 years as a corporate litigator in New York City, Amy left to write an advocate for working women and eventually women entrepreneurs as VP of Community and Designer Relations for Shopfunder LLC. After her first novel Lemongrass Hope, which debuted in October, 2014 as an Amazon bestseller, Amy became a full-time writer. She has just released her fifth novel and her books have great titles, like Secrets of Worry Dolls or Why We Lie.

And we're going to talk about book titles and book writing shortly. Amy also has a non-fiction book published by the American Bar Association called Lawyer Interrupted, which is a how-to guide for leaving the practice of law, something she says about half of all lawyers want to do. Amy is the past president of the Women's Fiction Writers Association, and a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, which we will talk about.

Amy is a frequent speaker across the country and a faculty member of the Drexel University MFA program in creative writing. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania. Amy, welcome to3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Amy Impellizzeri: Carol, thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Carol Fishman Cohen: We are thrilled to have you, and I know that you and I were just reminiscing right before we started recording about when we first met and I'm just remembering that it was very early in your career path.

You were a lawyer, you were at Skadden. And I remember, I don't know if you had just gone on your career break or you're thinking about it.

Amy Impellizzeri: I was new, yeah, I was newly on my career break. So it was 2009 and Skadden's answer to the Lehman Brothers collapse was not to lay off lawyers, but to actually open up a program called Sidebar Plus, and lawyers were allowed to apply for a one-year subsidized sabbatical.

We had to set out our plan for the year. And at first I wasn't granted the sabbatical because I was a litigator and litigation is impervious to economic downturns. The litigators were very busy, but I did convince the head of my department that I really wanted the year.

And so I did ultimately start the career break in 2009. It was just supposed to be a one-year, I often say I'm still on my one-year sabbatical 10 years later, but I was doing freelance writing. That was one of the things I was doing. And so I actually came to my first iRelaunch conference as a journalist and to cover the conference for local media.

And, I was absolutely mesmerized and riveted. And I've always talked about that conference actually when I've talked to transitioning professionals, including lawyers, about the impact it had on me coming so early in my own career break. Because I was very, I was listening very intensely to people talking about various career breaks and breaks on their resume and gaps on their resume.

And so I was very conscious from the get-go that I was going to make sure that it was a very intentional time with as little of a gap on my future resume as I could achieve. So that was a really pivotal time, and meeting you was really impactful and we've of course stayed in touch ever since then, and I've been so grateful for that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: The same with me and thank you for reviewing that because I remember when you wrote Lawyer Interrupted and I remember just being in touch in all these different phases of your career path. So maybe can you start by just jumping back in time and walking us through the career path, including your career break until where you are now?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, sure. So I had at first a very traditional lawyer trajectory. I went to liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, Dickinson College. I majored in English and philosophy. I was always going to go to law school. That was always my goal from the moment I set foot in my undergrad studies, I went directly to law school.

I went to George Washington Law School in DC. I applied for a federal clerkship and obtained it. So I clerked in DC at the Court of Federal Claims for two years. And then I got my first job in the New York area with a boutique law firm. Basically I started my career at a smaller boutique law firm, we were doing insurance defense and also we were national counsel for Amtrak, and I loved it. It was actually a really interesting law firm. They only hired law clerks because from the first day you set foot in the firm, you were immediately given a docket of trial work. And I had decided during my clerkship, that for sure litigation was for me.

And so I loved the idea of the firm and at the time I really didn't see myself on a path to big law. I really wanted to be in court and I wanted to have hands-on litigation work. And so it was really a fabulous step for me.

But eventually working in New York, late 1990s and there were a lot of my friends who were working for big law firms.They were making a lot of money, they were having a lot of success, and I got wooed by Skadden. I had a lot of trial experience in my three years, my early years of practice. And it was a very exciting offer when Skadden made the offer. But I do remember going into the partner's office at my old law firm and telling him that I had accepted this offer at Skadden. And he said to me, "I don't think that's for you." And I thought that was just, really I just thought it was really unreasonable at the time. I thought, "How can you say that it's Skadden? It's a tremendous opportunity on paper. It's sort of everything I've, in theory, I've worked for all my life. I was always going to be a lawyer. Skadden is the upper echelon of law firms in terms of prestige and salary and career opportunities.” But, he said to me, "You are meant to be a trial lawyer and you're going to have a different, it's going to look different there," and he wasn't wrong.

I did go to Skadden and I did end up staying there for a decade, which kind of shocked me at the time when I realized, as I was taking my career break after a decade, and it still shocks me now. And I don't know how much longer I would have stayed, but I was starting to really think about what my next path on the journey was going to be when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the memo arrived in my inbox advertising for Sidebar Plus, and I have to say it was a moment where I felt the universe was really speaking directly to me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, boy, I remember that time vividly. All right. So you elect to go to Sidebar Plus, and then how long were you on career break?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah and the funny thing was, I just knew that I needed to catch my breath and think about the next steps in the journey. I didn't have a clear path. I didn't have a clear idea of what it was going to look like.

I did know that I was going to take one year to really figure it out. So I was very intentional and I had always been a creative writer, but I had boxed those dreams up in college because I was going to law school and I was on a straight line path. So I did, when I went on Sidebar Plus, reconnect with my writing, my creative writing.

But I still was doing that on the side. Professionally I was working for a startup company and I was doing basically freelance work for them. I was also doing freelance journalism work for local media and advocacy work for a local nonprofit. And I was truly filling that year as full as I could with intentional, very deliberate decisions.

And then I had this idea that at the end of the year, I would see what rose to the top and that's what happened. So by the end of the year, what had risen to the top was the work with the startup company, which was Hybrid Her and then later became Shopfunder. It was basically a company that was working to market women entrepreneurs.

And I was getting... they were venture capital funded, they had their own lawyers, they did not need a lawyer, but what they did need was a translator to work between the creative team and the legal team, because the creative team would always say, "We're always asking for things and the lawyers will, they're constantly saying no." And I would say, "That's because they're asking for this." I used to always say, “You're asking for the wrong thing. Here's what we're going to ask for." And it was the first time I realized that my law degree actually qualified me to do something other than practice law. And it was very exciting. That was a very exciting time.

And so at the end of the year, I decided to stay on with the startup company. I did end up negotiating for myself a full-time position with them later on, but I asked Skadden to convert my sabbatical into a three-year leave of absence. And then I thought, I'll extend this time where I see what really is going to be the next path. And all along I was writing what became a novel. It was a story. It started as a story idea that was probably not surprisingly about a woman who was at a crossroads in her life and evaluating every single decision she had ever made up until then.

And it wasn't autobiographical strictly, but of course it was inspired by what was going on in my life at the time. And I was working on that on the side and I was working at the startup company and I was meeting really incredible, creative, interesting people who were forging new paths in their lives. I also was making connections in the publishing industry because the head of the company had run a magazine. So she was in New York City, a magazine editor. And so I would say to her occasionally, I'm working on this book. And she'd say, "If you ever finish it, I'd be happy to look at it and help you make the connections."

And so it was really great, it was something that was out there that I was incentivized to keep working on the book. And every time I pick the book back up again, I'd put it away for weeks or months. And I'd think, "Is there really something here?" And when I'd pick it up again, I'd think, "Yeah, I think there is."

And so ultimately it wasn't until 2013, four years after I started my sabbatical that I did start to pursue the path of publication. And ultimately, actually, let me back up for a minute, because of the work I was doing, the journalism work and the reporting work like covering iRelaunch, I was getting published and I was doing magazine articles and I was doing newspaper articles and I was discovered by an agent who was thinking about pitching a book to the American Bar Association. So while I'm working on my fiction manuscript, I was actually in a coffee shop and I got a call from this agent and she said, “I've been reading some of your work and I've been reading about what you're doing during Sidebar Plus, and I really want to pitch this book called Lawyer Interrupted to the American Bar Association, and I think you would be the person to write it." And I said to her "I'm sitting here with this fiction manuscript that I'm trying to shop, but you've just described the book that I should definitely be writing." She said, "Would you work on the pitch with me?" And I said, "Yeah, I will. Because really, if we're going to get the American Bar Association on board, what we really have to be talking about is something I have now discovered, which is, that the JD is much more versatile than anybody who is practicing law understands." And so that's how we crafted the pitch and that's ultimately what the Bar Association green-lighted.

So that was actually my first book contract, was the Lawyer Interrupted contract. And then I used that to shop my fiction contract. And I actually sold my first book without an agent, without a literary agent. I got a literary agent afterwards, but that is a little unorthodox. But it was interesting how it worked out and was an extension of my legal background, I think.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It's such an interesting comment because when Vivian Steir Rabin and I were in the early stages of writing Back on the Career Track, we originally had interest from a publisher before we had an agent. We didn't know anything about the business. And we had very strong interest from one publisher, and then we talked to a few friends of ours who had published nonfiction and they said, "You guys should get an agent and shop this around a little bit." And we were like, "Oh, okay."

And so we talked to our friends' agents and two out of the three wanted to represent us and we picked one. Then we thought we must have something here, if we already have a publisher and two out of three agents want to represent us. So that was our learning curve. But, we could have easily gone in without an agent with the first deal, so that you did that.

And we can talk about that in a little bit, the process and nonfiction versus fiction, book proposal for non-fiction versus finished product for fiction, and the role of the agent, and whether you recommend one or not?

Can you just fast forward a little bit, and once you got Lemongrass Hope published directly with this publisher without an agent, did things just spiral after that? And did you get like a multi-book contract or was each one published by someone different? Or how did that work?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, so all of my fiction books thus far have been published by Wyatt Mackenzie. And so what happened was Lemongrass Hope, I sold Lemongrass Hope to Wyatt-Mackenzie. That was a connection that I did ultimately make through the magazine editor, mentor, friend of mine. And so that was really exciting.

And it was funny because actually the head of Wyatt-Mackenzie said to me, "Debut fiction, it's hard to sell. It's easier to sell non-fiction, but we're going to see if we can bootstrap it on the publicity and marketing of Lawyer Interrupted and see what happens." I had made some friends because I was really serious about having a career, a potential career in publishing. I had networked and made friends in the industry with some professional writers, some really commercially successful writers who had given me, who'd been incredibly generous with their advice, and who helped me understand the industry a little bit.

And so when the book was due to come out, one of the activities you have to do basically, and everyone has to do this no matter how famous of a writer you are, and obviously I was debuting and nobody knew me, but you have to knock on doors and ask writers to blurb your book and endorse your book, read your book. And then if they like it, endorse your book.

And I really spent a lot of time doing that and I ended up connecting with, it was just one of those things that when you make generous friends and they start introducing you to people. And I ultimately connected with Jacquelyn Mitchard, who was Oprah's first book club pick author. She was the bestselling author of Deep End of the Ocean.

I had worked on my novel manuscript with a really amazing, generous writer, Caroline Leavitt, who's also a New York Times bestselling author. She had helped me, she had been my developmental editor. Basically, I had hired her to help me get the book ready for submission to an editor. And because she was so well known in the industry and also because she had been so generous and positive about the manuscript and was certain that it really was truly, a commercial manuscript, Jacqueline Mitchard was willing to look at the manuscript. And she did, and she blurbed it. And that was a huge break for me because Library Journal picked up her endorsement and I got some recognition that was really coveted and exciting for a debut author.

So because of that, I was able to get a literary agent and was able to really start thinking about the next book and the possible commercial potentials for subsequent books. The second book, Secrets of Worry Dolls I did sell as a multi-book deal. Because by this point I had an agent, he was shopping Secrets of Worry Dolls around, so some bigger publishers, bigger than Wyatt-Mackenzie, and no one was reading it. It was basically ending up on desks and sitting there. And so I said to him, "This book is going to just languish."

And it also had a very specific timeline that I was worried about expiring. At some point the book was not going to be relevant anymore, it was that post 9/11 book, just because of the timeline of the story. So we went back to Wyatt-Mackenzie and basically they were really interested in the book and they wanted to do a two book deal. I had a third book, but not a full manuscript. I just had basically an idea for a third book. So Wyatt-Mackenzie said, "If you'll pull it from the other big publishing houses that are just sitting on it, we'll buy the next two." So that was really exciting to me because it was really important to me to have some longevity in this industry.

So I sold Secrets of Worry Dolls, and then The Truth About Thea as a two book deal.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow, so exciting!

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, it was really exciting. And then did the same thing for the next two books. So the next two books were Why We Lie and I Know How This Ends, and when they were ready, I said to my agent when Why We Lie was ready and the pitch for the next book, I Know How This Ends was ready, I said to my agent, "Take it only to Wyatt-McKenzie, give them an exclusive, see if they'll do the same thing." So all my fiction books have been with Wyatt-Mackenzie and actually very exciting, the followup to Lawyer Interrupted is going to be How to Leave the Law.

Lawyer Interrupted was published in 2015 and Liz Brown, who's been really important and impactful in this space, who wrote the forward for Lawyer Interrupted and wrote Life After Law. She and I pitched basically an update, so much has changed in the transitioning law space since we wrote our books in 2014 and 2015, that we really wanted to write a follow-up.

So, we signed a contract with Wyatt-Mackenzie just before the pandemic and we are going to be writing, we are writing, we're going to be finishing a book called How to Leave the Law, which is going to come out in 2022. So I've had a really wonderful career at Wyatt-McKenzie, and have been really happy with the interesting sort of way that I was introduced to them, and then how my career has really been very, very steady with them. It's been very interesting.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I just want to give a shout out to Liz Brown. We have interviewed her on the 3,2,1 iRelaunch podcast, mostly about her relaunch and becoming a tenured professor after a career break, which is very unusual.

And of course she also wrote Life After Loss. So the idea that the two of you have teamed up to write this book is doubly exciting. And I'm thrilled to hear about that.

Amy Impellizzeri: Thank you, for you and me, both.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And Amy, actually, this leads me to one of my other questions, which I'm always intrigued by with people who are writers and especially have a succession of books. There are two questions, I want to get to the creative process in a minute, but one is, can you make a living writing? And you talked about it as a side gig, and then at some point you were doing this more full time. Where do the finances fit into all of this?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, I love this question because I often, and I will just back up for a minute. So I stayed with the startup company until about 2014, 2015, at the point where I had two book contracts and I had to finish the book that we had sold on proposal, I did leave the startup company and I did start writing full time. But I'm going to talk about what that really means in a minute.

So basically the short answer is because people constantly will come up to me at legal conferences, CLE conferences, writing conferences, and say, "I love your story. It's so amazing. I want to quit my day job and write, how do I do that?" And I always tell them, "Please do not do that." Because I did not quit my day job.

And the reality is, that just the math alone, it is very difficult to make a living strictly selling books. However, it is possible to make a living as a writer and the way you do that, and the way I have done that is to subsidize the writing in other ways. And so you have to just look, literally, if you just look at the math of selling books, the nature of the price point of the product, the nature of how many books you have to sell.

A book can be anywhere from $14.95 to $19.99, or, some hardcover books are $28, but most publishers don't even really release hardcovers anymore unless it's a very established well-known author. You will receive a very, especially if you have a publisher and an agent, you will receive a very small portion of that price per book.

And even if you hear a story of someone, and these are rare, but they do happen, if you hear a story of someone getting a six-figure advance on their book what that really means is, $100,000 or $200,000 across the span of maybe two or three years, because that's how long it takes to get a book from offer to market, at least two years.

And you'll pay taxes on that, your agent will take a cut of that. You will most likely have to hire a publicist out of that money to guarantee the success of the book. And then, even if all of those good things happen to you, and even if your book hits the New York Times Bestseller list, most of the books on the New York Times Bestseller list in any given week, unless you're JK Rowling, or another big James Patterson, conceivably hit the New York Times Bestseller list depending on the week or the what's going on in the market, or even there's been a lot of discussion that the New York Times Bestseller list has some popularity algorithms built into it. You may have sold 15,000, or 20,000 copies of your book. That's a reach.

So when you just look at the math alone, you start to understand how hard it really is to actually make a viable financial living strictly selling books. However, and all of the writers I know from self-published writers, who have a little more control over the finances, by the way, and who do get a bigger, obviously cut of their book, but have to make a bigger financial investment up front, all the way to my friends who are New York Times bestselling authors, we all subsidized the writing with other work, whether it's teaching work. So I'm on the faculty at Drexel. I also often taught writing classes and run writing programs. I also do nonprofit work. I do write grant writing and other fun work on the side to help subsidize the writing, and also because it just makes sense for me and helps.

I really like to work on the side of writing, because it actually inspires the writing. Not everybody feels that way. But also when you write nonfiction, you can leverage that to speaking and educating and CLE classes.

For me, when I was doing the Lawyer Interrupted circuit, it was much more lucrative to do speaking engagements than it was to actually sell books. Although you would often leverage the interplay of the selling of the books with the speaking engagements. So all of that is to say, I always tell people, "Please don't quit your day job and start writing a book and think that's going to somehow unless you are independently wealthy that don't think that's going to replace your income." But you can invest in the writing career just as if it's a startup company, just as if you're starting in business, come up with a business plan, decide how much you're going to invest in the next, however many years you can tolerate, and think about how you're going to subsidize it with your current day job or some other different day job. There's two schools of thought, one is you do something on the side that is completely unrelated to writing that's maybe traditional corporate, so you can get your 401k and your benefits package and it's steady and secure, and then you write on the side in a compartmentalized world. Or you do something a little more like I do, which is it's synthesized, you're writing, your brain is stimulated in both areas of your world, and you're able to not, it won't make or break you if your book has to be out on submission for a couple of more months, or if you need a deadline, you need an extension for your deadline. That's okay, because you have another way to subsidize the writing work. Does that answer your question?

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. Thank you so much for laying out the reality.

Amy Impellizzeri: Nobody ever wants to talk about it, and I find that so frustrating. And I will say you had mentioned the Tall Poppy Writers. So I found pretty early on in my journey, my writing journey, this group of women founded by Ann Garvin, she's a USA Today bestselling author, and we are a marketing co-op, it's a business, but we are also friends and it's a very generous group of women. And the group has evolved somewhat over the years. I've been involved with them since 2015 and we market each other.

We also do a lot of brand sponsorship negotiations. We were involved with Francis Ford Coppola winery and Book Sense and different companies to basically help market each other and market our books as a brand. But they have been very generous. And from the start, they were very generous.

I often joked that if there had only been Tall Poppy Lawyers, I might have stayed in the law longer, but there weren't, but the Tall Poppy Writers have been very generous and open and transparent. It was the first time I really met writers who were willing to be transparent and open about the industry itself, which tends to be shrouded in so much mystery and confusion, and there are reasons for that. It is a confusing industry, but it doesn't have to be so secret. And I'm always worried when a new author, emerging author or a debut author, I have a conversation with them that makes me understand that they're so confused and perhaps a little unrealistic about the finances of this industry, because I think you make, if you don't know the realities, you make poor decisions and I hate to see an emerging or debut author do that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. I am so grateful to you for talking about this in real terms, our listeners have heard me talk before about romanticizing entrepreneurship, and as you're pointing out the income stream from it is very much like starting your own business, and I'm glad you equated it in that way.

And also the income stream is equally unpredictable and lumpy, and sometimes non-existent for a period of time, so it's a longer game. And the idea of having one of these portfolio careers with the different aspects of it that are related to your writing, or doing it as a side gig and having a primary career that has nothing to do with your writing, it's very practical, and I hope everyone's listening to that piece of it.

Can we talk just a little bit more about the economics? You mentioned an agent, like an agent versus no agent, you mentioned hiring a developmental editor or a publicist. Sometimes, does the publisher do some of these functions for you? And do you overall, do you recommend an agent or are there certain times when you would not?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, so the initial starting out in the industry, I think you don't even know what you don't know, and that is a time to decide how much you're going to invest to learn about the industry. So I think before you are published is a great time to invest in a developmental editor, which is what I did, to understand how to transform a manuscript into something you might give out at holiday time to your family, to something that is going to be a commercial product. I did invest in a developmental editor before I was published and actually Caroline Leavitt and I worked together on our first, my first several books because I really found it a very valuable experience.

And then eventually I felt like I graduated from her, which was a really exciting time. So I did invest in the developmental editor early on, and PR, I did hire a publicist for my first novel. Usually, depending on who your publisher is, you will have some in-house publicity, and as time has gone by that's been really helpful.

And the bigger the publisher, obviously the bigger publishing, I'm sorry, the bigger the publisher, the bigger the marketing budget, although the nature of the industry…

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes and no.

Amy Impellizzeri: Yes. I know. And I was just going to give that caveat, the nature of the industry is much that I have friends at very big publishing houses who have gotten zero marketing budget.

And that is why sometimes even with a large advance, you are expected to use some of that advance on your own publicity, and so that is very difficult. And yeah, it depends what you want from your publishing career. I very much want longevity and I also want breadth. So I would like to sell subsidiary rights, I've sold audio rights, and I would like to, I've had a lot of foreign press offers, but I haven't sold a foreign rights deal yet. But that is all things that my agents, I'm actually now on my second agent in the industry, and and love her and I'm thrilled, and she actually is a former Skadden attorney.

So, I very much would like, I get a lot of film rights inquiries. I get a lot of foreign rights inquiries. Those are things that I think requires specialized expertise in negotiating. They're not, I feel like, yes, I can negotiate probably my own book deals and obviously have. I feel like there are other very specific aspects of the industry itself that I don't know, and again, I'm always willing to admit that I don't know what I don't know. And because I want other things than just a book deal, for me, it's important to have an agent who can explore and negotiate those things. But that's not the case for everybody. That's not the case for everybody.

And so you have to make a decision because obviously you're paying your agent a percentage of your already not humongous profits, right? So you have to really think about how many pieces you're going to cut the pie into. And again, for me, I've just made the cost benefit analysis that I want longevity in my career and I want different things. So I want specialized expertise.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I have three more questions I want to ask you and not very much time left, but I'm going to just put them out there and let's see if we can tackle them.

So I was interested in your creative process, you have produced just a steady stream of books. Are you super disciplined and you make yourself sit down and write every day? Do you suddenly get struck with an idea and then you intensely map that out? How does that work?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, so the lawyer in me definitely translates well to writing discipline. But my process has evolved along the way, for sure. It was much more schizophrenic in the early days in terms of the story and letting the story evolve and then doing the work on the backend, working with Caroline Leavitt and harnessing the story into something that was more organized, instructionally appropriate.

I've learned so much now that I spend more time on the front end now outlining the story. I am not like some of my friends, a person who writes such a detailed outline that the book is already written before I even sit down to write it because I do love the process of writing. So I do love the story to evolve. And I do love that process of finding the story as I'm writing. But I do spend much more time on the front end now of outlining the story, pulling apart the story into basically like a 16 point, and then eventually a 32 point kind of structure that will allow me to write the story. It evolves, it changes.

I can basically write a story, I can basically write a book in about six to nine months on that timeline. So that's where I am, that's where my process is. Yes, I do try to write a little bit every day. And sometimes that means a few words. Sometimes that means a lot of words, most of which are bad. And then when I am really in the story, then I will shift to a much more disciplined, usually I do word counts per week. So usually I will do okay, I have to write 5,000 words a week for a certain amount of time till I hit my deadline.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Wow, that's discipline. And then the titles, do you start with the title, does the title fall out later, does the publisher tell you what the title is? How does that happen?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah, usually for my own books, I have named all my books and I've named them early on in the process and gotten really attached to the titles. And I am really lucky that those titles have stuck. And my publisher was on board with all of them, that is not always the case. And so I have friends who will say, "I'm terrible at titles." I give it just a placeholder title. And then we brainstorm. I've had a lot of friends who we've actually done, like a hive brainstorming for potential titles to submit to the publisher. So usually the publisher will always have the end decision on a title, just like the publisher will always have the end decision on covers, book covers, people ask me about that a lot too. And you will usually have some varying degree input on both, and you'll have to understand that at the end of the day, it definitely is the publisher's decision.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. The original title for Back on the Career Track that we had suggested was from Play-Doh to Real Dough.

Amy Impellizzeri: Oh, I love that.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And we were loving it so much that they let us name the first chapter that. Yeah, it was great. And I remember working for hours on setting up one of those Play-Doh extrusion machines with green Play-Doh and trying to make like a dollar sign come out. It took me hours. It never worked.

Amy Impellizzeri: I love it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: It was super fun. All right. So loving this, Amy, thank you so much for everything that you've shared. I want to wrap up with the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is, what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Amy Impellizzeri: I was thinking about that. And, I have said this to many people in various transitioning paths, and I think the best advice I can give is to say it out loud, which is something I did all along my journey. When I had these sort of ideas that I wanted to pursue, or the idea that I was going to be a lawyer, even the idea that I was going to turn the startup gig into a full-time gig, I would start to say it out loud.

And when you do that, you'll be surprised. First of all, not in terms of your own acknowledgement validation for yourself, but you'll also be surprised about the audiences it might land on. And I happened to have a lot of opportunities because I said it out loud in front of the right person or the right group who was able to offer assistance, advice, guidance warnings. And so I think that would be my answer for that. Yeah.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah, that is great advice. And you see how it feels. How do you feel when you're talking about it? That gives you a lot of clues and I love that. So thank you. Amy, how can people find out more about your work and where can they order your books?

Amy Impellizzeri: Yeah. So please go to my website, which is my name,, which is And, you can order my books from your local indie bookstore, from Barnes and Noble, from Amazon, from And you can also sign up for my newsletter on my website, which is totally spam free, and I'll let you know when there are sales and deals. And we're going to be actually doing an encore of my virtual book club that was a big hit during the pandemic. We're going to be revisiting that in 2021. So sign up for my newsletter and I would love to keep in touch with your listeners.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that book club revival, that sounds really fun. Amy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Amy Impellizzeri: Oh, Carol. It's my pleasure. Thank you so much.

Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch, and your host.

For more information on iRelaunch conferences and events, to sign up for our job board and access our return to work tools and resources, go to And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

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