Real Women Doing Real Things: Hitha Palepu, Author of How To Pack

Hitha Palepu, author of How To Pack and the super fun blog, is not only incredibly nice and smart, but also a total girl boss. Here’s what the author and blogger has to say about writing her first book and her best advice for aspiring authors…

Tell us a little about you and what inspired you to write How To Pack.

My blog has a very common origin story – I had just started working at a small pharmaceutical company as a project manager, and I began writing the blog as a creative outlet. The job was the reason I was traveling so much – going to India 3-4 times a year to meet with our development team, around the United States to visit manufacturing sites, conferences, and partner meetings. I was on the road three weeks out of every month, and had to figure out how to pack properly rather quickly. Once I created a system that worked for me (and my husband, who was also traveling every week), I began to share the tips on my blog. This vertical became my most popular, as no one was writing about packing and travel from this point-of-view. My publisher approached me to write a book in 2015 (the day I came home from the hospital with my newborn son). We signed the contract in June, and I delivered my manuscript in December!

Tell us about your biggest learning when it comes to writing a book.

Writing a book is completely different than writing a blog. I’m lucky to have an incredible agent (a.k.a my book’s fairy godmother) who helped me through the entire process – creating and flushing out the outline, finding my voice, and learning how to tell a story in the context of giving advice.

I think it’s important to also be flexible on your vision of the book, and know when to trust your publisher and when to fight for your vision. Mine had a specific idea on the cover, the title, and the art that I ceded to them. I did push back on certain things – men’s and family packing content, for example – to fit my vision of the book.

Marketing a book is a completely different challenge than writing a book. The sooner you start, the better (as in right after you submit your final manuscript). I wish I had started that work sooner.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started that you now know?

The importance of delegation and having a really strong team – at home and at work. My nanny and my housekeeper are two of the most important women in my life, and there’s no way I could do my jobs without them doing theirs. I’ve been slow to build my team for the blog, but that’s my biggest goal this year. Be laser focused on the things that you alone can do, and bring on help – part time, virtual, interns, whatever you can afford – to handle the rest.

What advice do you have for aspiring female authors?

Write every single day. Even if it’s a journal entry that no one will see, or a point-of-view piece on Medium, or a post on your own blog. Writing is a creative muscle that you have to exercise every day, and a strong one will only serve you better if you want to write a book.

Establishing authority on the topic you want to write about is vitally important. Whether you self publish or want to land a book deal, you need to think about why YOU are the perfect person to write this book, and why people will buy it from you.  I wrote about packing for five years before I was approached to write How To Pack, and had also done video projects and live TV segments, a product collaboration with Quarterly, and contributed to other websites. If you’re just starting out, I recommend writing on Medium weekly on the topic you’d like to pen a book about, and then pitch yourself to other outlets. Pick one social media platform to focus on and grow and update it daily.

What’s next for you? Any blog or second book plans?

We’re in the early stages of planning the next book (packing for families!). I’ve also returned to the pharma world and am working with my father again, which is wonderful. On the blog front, I’m bringing on contributors and launching a podcast this spring!  At some point, I would love to have another child and write a novel. My ultimate goal – get eight hours of sleep every night. When that happens, I feel like Wonder Woman.

Make sure to follow Hitha on Instagram and also check out her blog!