After a year of overwhelming challenges, readers are reaching for resources to help make sense of a difficult world. Katie Cowan, publishing director at DK, has two books in mind to motivate, guide, and inspire readers. Twice as Hard: Navigating Black Stereotypes and Creating Space for Success, by husband-and-wife team Raphael Sofoluke and Opeyemi Sofoluke, is a celebration of Black business leaders, as well an exploration of the systemic problems facing Black professionals. What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?: Discover a Life Filled with Purpose and Joy Through the Secrets of Jewish Wisdom by Michal Oshman provides wise, actionable advice for moving beyond fear and anxiety.
How are Twice as Hard and What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? meeting the moment for readers?
Senior acquisitions editor Stephanie Milner signed both of these books in early 2020, and they were written throughout the pandemic. Given everything that’s going on in the world now, they are even more relevant than when we decided to publish them, which is important.
Last year, calls for racial justice and equity grew alongside a demand for more Black authors and Black-owned content. Raphael and Opeyemi Sofoluke were able to incorporate their own experiences, alongside tips from top business leaders and creatives, into a book we all hope can be a go-to resource for professionals today.
During the pandemic, people were fearful of isolation, fearful of the virus, and often of even going outside; now, there’s anxiety about reintegrating into society. Michal Oshman explores and shares advice for overcoming these feelings in a way that’s so relatable, and more relevant now than ever.
Raphael and Opeyemi Sofoluke have fascinating backgrounds. How has their entrepreneurial work informed the book?
Raphael and Opeyemi are hugely impressive, and now they can both add “author” to their list of accomplishments! Raphael is the founder of the U.K. Black Business Show, an annual exhibition that promotes businesses founded by members of the Black community, as well as the Black Tech Achievement Awards. Opeyemi’s work, too, links directly into Twice as Hard. Opeyemi is an expert and advocate for diversity and inclusion, and she brings that passion and experience to the book.
How did Raphael and Opeyemi connect with the many Black business professionals whose stories are shared in the book?
In writing Twice as Hard, Raphael and Opeyemi interviewed leading Black executives, professors, innovators, influencers, musicians, sportspeople, comedians, actors, and more for their advice on a wide range of topics from personal branding to networking to mental health. Raphael and Opeyemi already have a robust network—from Raphael’s work with the U.K. Black Business Show and Opeyemi’s work as a DEI thought leader—which they tapped into when writing the book.
They also simply reached out to people they admired, told them about the project, and saw if they were interested in participating, and people were so receptive. They found that their message and goals for Twice as Hard resonated with so many people, and even those they hadn’t previously known were excited to participate. The results are impressive. They managed to interview everyone from record producer Mathew Knowles to founder of The Shade Room Angelica Nwandu to Dr. Wayne Frederick, scholar, surgeon, and the president of HBCU Howard University.
Talk about interesting backgrounds. Tell me more about how Michal Oshman’s life story inspired the book.
Michal comes from an impressive career in tech, as a mentor and coach to top executives. After amassing degrees in psychology, anthropology, and sociology, she worked at companies like eBay and Facebook, before starting at TikTok Europe as head of diversity and inclusion.
As a tech leader, mother of four, and vivacious extrovert, anyone would think that Michal had it all. But, as she describes in the book, she lived with excruciating anxiety for many years. It wasn’t until she discovered ancient Jewish wisdom—and integrated those values into her life—that she was able to find joy and happiness and conquer her fear.
Our publishing team has been on the lookout for exciting, dynamic new authors and content as we expand our list into new topics and formats. Michal is a fresh, passionate voice, with a unique story and perspective, and we felt she was just the right person to tell it.
Both books strike me as breaking the business and self-help molds. Talk about what you hoped to accomplish through these two unique titles.
That’s exactly right. These two new books aren’t just one thing, they’re multidimensional and offer intersectional insights to life. With Twice as Hard, we’re hoping to not only provide a framework for success for Black professionals, but also context for allies outside of that community. Written by husband and wife, man and woman, we are able to represent the way in which bias in the workplace discriminates against people on the basis of both race and gender. We want this book to be at once inspirational and practical. We want people to feel empowered, informed, and better equipped to grow their careers and support the Black community in the workplace and beyond.
For What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid? Michal is hoping that her methodology of Jewish wisdom helps people to find joy, just like she did. And that kind of purpose is found in almost every context: at work, at home, with your loved ones, with friends. When you can live fearlessly, it can trickle down into every aspect of your life.
How are you working to connect readers with both What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid? and Twice as Hard?
We’ve focused on virtual events, which have actually given us greater opportunities to connect these authors with different audiences across the U.S. The authors are also engaging their readers directly on social media, offering coaching, career advice, and sharing their excitement for the book releases.
Both books have so much to offer a wide range of readers, from recent grads to working parents to executives and CEOs. We’re reaching out to Black-owned bookstores, Jewish media outlets, and are working on countless ways to spread the word. Through our many marketing and PR initiatives, we hope to reach as many readers as possible, because there really is something for everyone in these books.