en Korber joins the Student Loan Podcast to share his story of how he wrote children’s books while working a full time job to help pay off his student loans. The best part is, you can do it too! Ken takes a deep dive into what it takes to share your own stories that may lead to residual income that can be used to help pay off your student loans.
Kenneth E. Korber is a graduate of the Hahnemann University PA Program and founding faculty of the Touro University IL PA Program. He was the 2020 – 2022 President of the Association for PAs and NPs and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Korber has served on federal clinical competency committees, has worked within Physician Assistant training grant study groups, and has participated in the output of several international cross-functional CE|CME leadership teams. He is a published, peer-reviewed author in the medical and surgical literature, lectures on international cardiometabolic medicine, and is a certified test item-writer. In addition, he is the architect of the first pediatric patient education company in the Midwest; measuring the effectiveness of storybooks as engagement tools for the next generation of little health ambassadors®.
THIS EPISODE COVERS:
- how to write a children’s book;
- the process of going from idea to generating income for your student loan payments through book sales;
- how to find inspiration to write through your day-to-day experiences; and
- much, much, more…
CONNECT WITH KEN KORBER
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Ken Korber (00:00): So as I got rolling with my first book, the first title published and then taken over by the publisher, I was able to use just some pure retail sales, probably about $125 a month. Okay. Directly paying my back my student loans in addition to what I was doing in my job already. My day to day job.
The Student Loan Podcast Intro (00:20): Welcome to the Student Loan podcast. Here you'll find practical advice on tackling student loan debt, paying down your higher education expenses And inspiring stories about paying off student loans, where your host, Daphné Vanessa and Shamil Rodriguez
Daphné Vanessa (00:39): Please, rate, review and subscribe to the Student Loan Podcast by visiting the Student Loan Podcast on Apple Podcast or wherever you find your podcasts.
Shamil Rodriguez (00:49): This is not professional advice, and we speak from our own personal views and opinions.
Daphné Vanessa (00:55): The Student Loan Podcast is brought to you by Startnoo, where you can serve your community and get rewarded with tuition and student loan payments. To check out if Startnoo is on your campus, visit startnoo.com. Welcome everyone to another episode of The Student Loan Podcast. Today we have Ken Korber, who has a unique story to share with us. So, Ken, please give a little bit about yourself to everyone.
Ken Korber (01:23): Well, thanks for the invitation. It's great to be with you today. Um, I am, uh, a little different from, from your typical, uh, interviewee in that, um, I, uh, I'm a healthcare provider by training and, um, I have pivoted and have started a second career as a published children's book author. But I, I use that idea as a way to kind of pay back some loans for graduate school. So, in, in many ways, I'm, I'm similar to every other person who's on your show listening or view your podcast.
Daphné Vanessa (02:01): So cool. Um, so that is a really unique angle. We've never had anyone on the podcast talk about that. So let's get into just who you are, Ken. So what got you into the healthcare profession, and then why did you pivot into writing children's books?
Ken Korber (02:18): So, I always liked science, you know, when, since seventh grade. So, so I knew that I was gonna do something, um, in, in a science related field. And my dad was a high school biology teacher, so we always had science around the house at the dinner table. So that was kind of a common theme that sort of ran through our daily, daily lives of five kids and, uh, you know, typical suburban kinds of environment. But, um, with that as a background, I went, went into school, uh, tried to get into medical school, did not get in. Um, and, uh, long story short, um, I, I met a physician assistant who was working in the VA system, uh, in vascular surgery. And she said, Don't reapply to medical school. Look at this PA profession as a, as an alternative to medical school. Cause it's, you don't have to worry about 10 years of training and, and all that debt, uh, associated with trying to become a doctor.
Ken Korber (03:14): So, so I looked into it, uh, applied to, uh, PA training programs and got in so long story short, um, I, um, I had debt like every other new grad coming outta school. And, um, I helped, uh, pay that back by working in a hospital as a new graduate. Um, but then I was thinking about going to graduate school and I said, Oh, you know, that would be more debt on top of, of everything else that was going, going on in terms of paying back my loans. So I said, I gotta figure out a way to sort of supplement or do a side gig kind of a thing, um, to, to support paying back graduate school education as well. So, so the job paid back my undergrad, and then as I was working, um, in that job in the hospital setting, I started to think about, um, some challenges around me in the, in the work environment and, um, did some problem solving or problem identification.
Ken Korber (04:11): And, and I realized that, uh, we weren't allowed to spend so much time with, with our pediatric patients, you know, more than 10 minutes in a clinic. Uh, and it was hard to kind of explain to them what was going on from a wellness or healthy decision making behavior point of view. So I said, Well, what if we created a another way to kind of communicate with them? And I came up with this thought of a children's book with new characters that would then become narrators of a story that was health related. So then that, that's where it all kind of started from there. Um, but, um, the message I guess to your audience is, um, you know, if you look around your environment where you're working as a new grad or, or even as a student, um, you know, you're gonna become an expert in certain, in certain things that are, are, um, part of your day to day, whether it's studying learning or, or working. And, um, you can then take that in an entrepreneurial way and sort of put it to your advantage and creates another side gig to help pay back your owns.
Daphné Vanessa (05:16): We love the side hustle story. I think that's incredibly riveting and exciting for people to know that there's something that's in the plum of their hands that, that you can monetize and pay off your student loans. Super cool.
Ken Korber (05:29): Right?
Daphné Vanessa (05:30): So why, why did you decide to monetize it? It's one thing to sort of do something as a hobby, but why did you decide to monetize it and how did you sort of teach yourself that skill? Because that's not necessarily what you studied as a pa.
Ken Korber (05:45): I sort of sat on that for a while and, uh, over time I started integrating more of the children's book stories into my, uh, patient care kind of environment. And we started developing, um, more stories. And, and the publisher, who I was, their new client, um, accepted the stories and started publishing the books for me. So, so it took away a lot of cost, the cost of, of creating a book. Um, uh, otherwise I would have to be self-publishing, you know, and paying, you know, the investment upfront. So that was sort of the, the luck from, from that aspect of it.
Daphné Vanessa (06:19): So you had a publisher?
Ken Korber (06:21): I do.
Daphné Vanessa (06:22): Oh, okay. That's cool. Yeah, I thought when we initially spoke, for some reason I thought you were self-published, but you got a publishing opportunity. How did that happen?
Ken Korber (06:32): Well, that's another kind of ooh,
Daphné Vanessa (07:37): That. Yeah. So that's a big lesson, right? It's like if you're looking to monetize a business from you, from a lot of our guests, it just seems like building that audience is foundational to being able to hit the ground running. It's not that you can't do it if you don't have an audience, it's just that it takes longer and a publisher picked you up because you had already validated your business,
Ken Korber (08:01): Right? And, and then the other piece of that is when you're thinking about, um, doing, doing something to try to pay back student loans, um, that's, that's a little different or out of the ordinary from just working on day to day job. Um, think about something that's a little different and sort of makes you a little unique in terms of the idea. So no one, um, out there was publishing stories about, um, these new characters mm-hmm.
Daphné Vanessa (08:41): I love it. I I am, If you've listened to episodes in the past, you'll Yeah. I am a musician.
Ken Korber (08:47):
Daphné Vanessa (08:52): So, I, I love the, the Grace note application Grace note, my favorite
Ken Korber (09:15): And, and we, we even have a ghost note as another, as another way to kind of bring that music deep.
Daphné Vanessa (09:22): You go deep
Ken Korber (09:22):
Daphné Vanessa (09:25): Super cool. What got you into music?
Ken Korber (09:28): So that, that's a whole nother story and a whole nother episode on your, on your, on your show. But my son's a musician, so, and my son's a music teacher, so, um, that's, that was sort of the, the access to, to music for me. I was always in, you know, healthcare and science and stuff, and my wife's a nurse, so, so we were, we don't know where he came from being a musician.
Daphné Vanessa (09:50): Rebelling,
Ken Korber (09:52):
Daphné Vanessa (09:54): I, I can empathize rebelling when your parents are too smart, you're like, I need to do something creative
Ken Korber (09:59):
Daphné Vanessa (10:01): Where that's where the outlet came out of. Uh, very cool. I, I love the story. So let's get into specifics just because that would be the most helpful. How much exactly in student loans did you have and what was the composition? Meaning how many of them were federal versus private
Ken Korber (10:16): On the undergrad? Loans were federal, partially, but mostly private foundation stuff. Uh, and then bank, bank loans and those kinds of things. So that was pretty much, you know, once you graduated, the day after you got the notice, you know, that you, you had to start paying back your loans. Pay me.
Daphné Vanessa (10:34): Yeah,
Ken Korber (10:34): Pay me. So, so that was, you know, that was why I was happy to have the job to do that. Um, graduate school was a whole nother thing, um, because the, the sources are a little different for grad school, as you know, and I had to, um, I got some work related support being an employee, so they paid back some of my tuition for grad school, but not a hundred percent. So then I had to go out and look at foundations and, and other sources of, of, of grants that would support me for a two year graduate program. So, so that was, that was kind of how it all sort of sifted out. In both cases I had, you had to pay them back once you were finished, you know, so you kind of had to get on the ball pretty quickly.
Daphné Vanessa (11:15): Interesting. And you, there was no grace period back when you started?
Ken Korber (11:21): No. And this was, this was a, you know, potentially because I'm an old guy, you know, that back, back then, it was a little more process oriented and it was, you know, almost like having a, um, a credit card kind of a thing. You had to pay them back pretty quickly. So there wasn't an ability to delay anything. Um, I did get a little bit of leniency for one supporter when I told him I was, um, going to grad school. So, so that was, that was helpful. But for the most part, you know, like I said, once you graduate, you gotta start paying it back. So there's a response, you know, know the adult responsibility kind of jump jumps on top of you pretty quickly. Hashtag
Daphné Vanessa (11:56): Adulting,
Ken Korber (11:58):
Daphné Vanessa (12:00): The, the pains of adulting.
Ken Korber (12:01): That's right.
Daphné Vanessa (12:02): One of them. Interesting. And so when you're paying back your student loans, you're sort of doing just the process. What composition did you have in term? What methodology did you have? I mean, when you decided to pay them back, did you say, I'm gonna look at the highest interest rates first, or the highest amount, the lowest amount. Something that made me feel good. Like what was your approach on paying back your loans?
Ken Korber (12:26): Yeah, I did negotiate a little bit with the highest interest rate once, Cause that was where I wanted to go first. Uh, cause that saved me the most money down the road. Um, so I was able to, to, um, to maintain that level of higher interest, but then, uh, have a, uh, a manageable monthly payment. So it was, it was like a credit card kinda approach. Then the, and some of the foundation stuff was a little more flexible in terms of, you know, they could say, you know, pay us quarterly, you know, that's fine. You don't have to do a monthly thing and all that. So, so it didn't, it didn't become a giant burden that was coming outta my paycheck every, every, every month or every two weeks because I was able to wiggle around a little bit in terms of negotiations. But it's pretty, it's pretty straightforward, you know, you kind of sign up for it and you kind of are responsible for it. So yeah, that's kind of, you know, part of what you're deal, what you're buying into when you get the cash.
Daphné Vanessa (13:19): Yeah. And what are your thoughts on the advocacy for student loan forgiveness given? And not that this is a policy episode, but I'm just curious.
Ken Korber (13:33): I think, I think it's helpful. It's helpful for, um, for access for populations that would, would never have been able to raise that bundle of cash up front to pay, pay back their, their loans because of family responsibilities or, or if they were, uh, first in family to go to college. You know, those, those kinds of scenarios were, are important, um, to get some support other than a Pell Grant, you know, kind of a thing from the feds where, where you, you're still responsible to get forgiveness for loans is awesome. You know, I mean, that just helps, uh, practically, you know, it allows people to buy food and it allows people to kind of, you know, do their cost of living kinds of issues. Um, if, if they get a $10,000 gift or, or payback, uh, reduction in terms of their, it just, it's helpful all across the board
Daphné Vanessa (14:25): For sure. I was just curious because I know that there are so many different opinions and we're in the middle of all of this, you know, hearing all the opinions and trying to offer our own, but it's, I think it's really helpful just to speak to as many people about the issue as possible. Sure. Um, so that we can all come to the table, I think, because Right. Apparently there are strong opinions on multiple sides. And for us to just be American and move forward, I think, think it would be nice if everybody sort of was on as close of the same page as, as reasonably possible
Ken Korber (14:57):
Daphné Vanessa (15:23): Right. No, I completely agree. And I think it's nice that somebody else is thinking about the, the importance of not having politics and everything, especially things like education. You know, I think education should be one of those apolitical topics, you know, like just education for people and, and equity, I parity like you were saying. So thank you for sharing that. I know it's not exactly on topic, but I was curious, so appreciate your thoughts. The, you spoke about the makeup, you spoke about how you were in healthcare. You pivoted to children's book writing. Talk to us about the process that it takes for you to actually write a book that allows for you to monetize it in a systemic way, because it's a unique skill. And if somebody's thinking about monetizing it, I'd love for you to share exactly how, so that, um, we can all, you know, use this little tip
Ken Korber (16:18):
Ken Korber (17:09): Or does this have international implications? Because then you start thinking about the books can then be translated into other languages. Yes. So that, that opens up a whole nother, essentially series of products for you as a, as a part of the side gig. So then you, you, so you have that, you have your audience, you have your idea, your concept, you have, whether it's gonna be English or other languages plus English. And then you say, Okay, so what's important for my little story? You know, then you start thinking about the storytelling piece of it. So you identify a problem, you create, um, a narrative around the problem, and you show, uh, ways that are almost like a, a case study. You know, here's how I solve the problem, or here's how I, um, I, I worked within this, this challenge, um, as a personal story, you know?
Ken Korber (17:59): Um, and then you think, Well, do I need to create a character to kind of help me talk that way? Or, or am I, or is my voice the one that's gonna be in the story? So then you say, Okay, then you, you start building the story, and then, uh, the story is completed in the first draft, and then you put it, just put it aside. You look at it five days later, read the story and then start editing yourself, you know? Oh, yeah. Changing, changing draft number one, to be draft number two, It takes me three times to create a story for kids. And
Daphné Vanessa (18:32): How, how long are your, your stories for kids? Like, how many pages are you, are you talking?
Ken Korber (18:37): So I'm not smart enough to be really, to really write a novel
Ken Korber (19:22): Your family members, the people that, that you know, will be not so hard on you in terms of, of giving you feedback and crushing your ego, you know, in terms of what the story's about. But, but that they'll give you good feedback and then that gives you an opportunity to, to change the draft again for the final version with their comments and, and suggestions. And then you say, uh, let me just send this out to people that do self-publishing and, and they will publish it for me. Um, knowing that you had to, you know, build up a little bit of an investment to kind of get the books printed, you know, into something physical, or you can do it as an ebook, Uh, yeah, go to Amazon and do it for, you know, less money and, and then create a shop on, on Amazon. The children's book piece with the illustrations is a whole nother, um, or not a whole nother, but, but a different animal in that you have to really get a good illustrator that understands your story if you're gonna create characters or if you're gonna create, um, a layout that that's gonna get the interest of a three or a six year old, you know, in terms of what or what they like to see.
Ken Korber (20:25): You know, the ulterior motive is for you to kind of help them learn how to read. Right. So, so it's, it's that's, But you're not telling them that as part of the story. No.
Daphné Vanessa (20:55): How much, how much does that cost?
Ken Korber (20:57): So it's probably, it's probably less than $2,000 for 30 pages of layout work, full color layout work without getting too fancy in terms of, of the artwork. And then that includes a cover design too. If you have new characters, that adds a little bit more money because they're creating something new. And then you have to kind of approve all that stuff to make sure it makes sense. But the trick with, with the children's books is getting the story to be visual on paper so that the illustrator or graphic arts person can read your little blurb on the page and say, Oh, this, this page needs a background of X, Y, and Z because of the words that are on the page. So you kind of synchronize your text with your, your artwork in terms of the illustration. And then when you send it to, uh, a self publisher, uh, they'll do it for you. Or you, if you, you have a local traditional publisher or boutique publisher that's a hybrid kind of a company, you know, they're all looking for stories, new stories, and interesting topics. So, um, it takes about six months or so to kind of get six to nine months to get it from your brain to the shelf in, uh, a store or a store or the publisher's marketing and promotional queue in terms of what, what their resources are
Daphné Vanessa (22:15): And the, the publishers. If, if you've already done the work of putting the book together, why would you go through a publisher versus marketing it yourself?
Ken Korber (22:25): Well, it's mostly the upfront money that you have to kind of invest in. Um, you know, if you, if you're putting aside money knowing that you want to do this book yourself, it's great because then you're, you're, you're covering all your costs either way, though. You own all the images and all the texts. So if you, even if you go to a publisher, you still have ownership of, of the, of the book. It's, it's still your book. What they do for you on your behalf is they take on the, the cost of printing an actual paper version or converting it to a pdf magazine style ebook kind of a thing. And then they have their own usual regional network of publicity that they kind of plug into. So they'll, they'll got it, they'll, you know, they'll organize author events for you. They will get you interviews from the daily newspapers, you know, as, as a PR kind of a thing. Yeah. Otherwise you'd have to kinda do that yourself. You know, that
Daphné Vanessa (23:20): That's the whole thing. Yeah. So if pr is your strength, like you're a marketing student, you're a PR student, then maybe you don't need a publisher because Amazon, KDP Ingram, all those guys print the book for you and that
Ken Korber (23:31): Cost is store, store it for you and all that.
Daphné Vanessa (23:34): Right? Right. But if you are a student who maybe marketing is not your strength
Ken Korber (23:45): And it also, I mean, you, you essentially write your book and then you bring vendors in, other experts in to kind of help you physically, logistically kind of create something that you can then push out to the world commercially.
Daphné Vanessa (23:58): Sure. Right. Very cool. Awesome. This is a really unique way. And so let's just get specific with numbers. How many books did you have to sell to pay off your student
Ken Korber (24:11): Loans? So the books retail for $15, and, and then I can play with that, you know, in terms of volume purchases and stuff, I have my own website to directly sell the books to the world world. And then I have my publisher and their, their mechanism and their publicity engine to promote the books and sell the books also. So there's two, two channels of, of sales that are, are in place right from the start, from the payback loans thing. Uh, if you do the math, I got my publisher because I sold 250 copies in that first year. Okay. So there's a, there's a threshold, you know, 250, a thousand copies that you randomly sell to kind of give yourself the legitimacy as a, as an author. They will, they then take it and then will, will really promote it or create a second book for you, um, or a third book, or a fourth book.
Ken Korber (25:02): And then you have a series of books with the same publisher, Right. Uh, then it becomes something like, you know, a thousand copies of the a year, uh, for each title. So then that becomes, you know, if you do the math, you know, that's, that's, that's a nice chunk of change that you can then just convert Totally. To paying back your loan, uh, with the proceeds of the book. Because not only do you, if you sell the book yourself, you know, you get a hundred percent, if you go through a publisher, you tend to get like 60, 60% royalty. So they recoup their costs up front, but then once those costs are covered, you know, then it becomes a, a, a second revenue stream for you as you're working your other job, you know, as, as your, as your main thing. And so then you just, I just pushed it all into the payments of accelerated payments, monthly payments for my loans.
Daphné Vanessa (25:49): So, Nice.
Ken Korber (25:50): Yeah, it worked out well.
Daphné Vanessa (25:51): How long did it take you from the first book being out? So I'm talking before the two 50 were sold. So from the first book to student loan payoff, How long did that take you?
Ken Korber (26:01): So if, if your audience is thinking about writing a book, getting it published, however they want to get it published for one book, it probably takes about six to nine months before you start getting the cash coming, coming in that you can put aside to pay back your loans. Mm-hmm.
Daphné Vanessa (26:34): Cash machine.
Ken Korber (26:35): Yeah. You know, that, you know, 24 7, you can, you know, get sales coming in and, and you don't have to kind of go out, you know, do it with 10, with 10 titles. So, so I have a business now that, that I, that I run and, and pay all the bills with, and all my loans are paid off because of that, and then I'm gonna go international with translations. So, so that opens up a whole nother world. And then you do a, you know, then you do business alliances. Um, I have a hair cutting story for the first haircut for kids, uh, using the characters. Grace helps Marvin the Moose get his first haircut, and I partnered with the Chicago Comb company, so we give kids a free comb with the book as part of their deal. So, I mean, little things like that, that's cute, you know, you can, you can do to kind of boost your sail and, and boost the idea of, of, of getting sort of your product out there in a unique way. So, so, you know, it's, it's, it's fun now that I got the business idea under, under my belt, in terms of being an entrepreneur, it's, uh, it's less fearful and in terms of, of kind of doing the day to day stuff. So it's, uh, it's becomes more creative and more fun down the
Daphné Vanessa (27:42): Road. Nice. Yeah. Super exciting. One last question. Do you feel comfortable sharing the amount, uh, like roughly how much in profits you make off of the books?
Ken Korber (27:52): So, yeah, so if your, when your audience is, is talking to the publisher, try to get 40% off of retail as your royalty payment, just as a negotiation point. Uh, you have 60% right now because it's a children's book thing. So it's, it's less for them to, to, to produce it, physically produce it, But from a novel perspective, it's around 40% for a hybrid publisher. The traditional publishers are a little less because they have a, you know, international kind of footprint and, and they kind of take it on as a, as a machine processing things. So, so their, their royalty is a little less, um, but you'll sell more quantities with them. So it's, it's a, it's a balance back and forth, but 40 percent's a good target. So if I sell the retail price is 15 or $20, 40% of that comes to me for each unit that I sell. So, so it's pretty good return. And then I can do quirky things like sell stuff off my website that are autographed so that I can charge her full price and get, and get $20 per book as opposed to 15 or 12, you know, depending on the retail, the retail connection.
Daphné Vanessa (28:58): Love the autograph idea. But yeah, I think I just meant like specific number, like do you have, can you, can you say that your books, when you were paying off your student loans, you were able to do $500 extra loans? Oh,
Ken Korber (29:10): I see what you said in terms of payments. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so as I got rolling with my first book mm-hmm.
Daphné Vanessa (30:02): It. Yeah. That's a, that's a solid extra amount, um, towards your, your student loans. Right. So thank you. We do have a pause extended at the moment, at the moment of this recording. So who knows when this episode will be released, but as of the recording, the pause is still in effect. And I do hope that it helps a lot of people reorganize their finances so that when student loans do phase back in, you can use creative ideas like this, like Ken's idea publishing a children's book. Maybe you start on that now, right? Maybe you start on it now during the student loan pause, Invest your extra money or any money that you have, I wouldn't say lying around, but any extra money that you're able to use towards starting this children's book business. And who knows, you could accelerate the payoff of your student loans. So, Ken, before we wrap up, do you have any words of advice, any words of wisdom that you'd like to share?
Ken Korber (31:01): I would say to your audience, you know, if you, if you had have an idea for a book, absolutely try, try to get it published or try to write a story about it or try to write the story because there's plenty of ways out there to, to self-publish that wouldn't cost you any money, but could be another line of revenue for you to pay back loans.
Daphné Vanessa (31:21): Fantastic. Where can we reach? You can,
Ken Korber (31:25): So there's two, there's two ways you can go through my publisher, which is ecks press, E C K H A R, TZ press.com, and then look under the author side and I'll be listed there as an author. Um, or you can go directly to our center for functional learning.com website, um, which measures the effectiveness of, of children's books, uh, on knowledge and behavior changes in kids. So, um, either of those two sites, center functional learning.com or express.com are sources where people can get ahold of me. A direct email would be info center for functional learning.com. And I'd be happy to answer any questions from your audience or, or sort of give them sort of a curbside consult for, uh, for helping them through a project that they want to develop.
Daphné Vanessa (32:15): Nice. Well, super exciting, Ken. We loved having you on. Thank you so much. Bye
Ken Korber (32:22): Bye. Thanks
Speaker 5 (32:24): For more information on today's episode, visit the ps lom podcast.com/episode 77.
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