She loved writing and teaching at the university level. But Laura Bush felt there was more she could do with her experience and skills.
Peacock Proud Press, the nonfiction writing coaching, editing and publishing company she runs from her Mesa home, was her response. In 2012, she left a steady career at Arizona State University and took her 20 years of teaching experience out of the classroom and into home offices of aspiring authors.
“I wanted my freedom to make a difference in a new way,” said Bush, who has a doctorate in English from ASU. “I’m now able to see other avenues and ways to help people use their critical thinking and creative writing skills to do so many things.”
Bush launched Peacock as a book writing and editing business. Demand led her to expand into publishing in 2015.
Today, she uses her teaching expertise to help people pursue and achieve their writing goals. She specializes in autobiographies, legacy books and memoirs.
At any time, Bush has 15 clients needing her help. She has clients across the country and Canada, and once flew to Australia to assist one with finishing her book. She has personally worked with authors to publish 25 books. Her Book in a Barn writing retreat she holds at the Historic C.O.D. Ranch in Oracle started with three attendees and now attracts 20.
Most come to Bush wanting help with a memoir or autobiography. Her company appeals to women, some who survived abuse or overcame a difficult experience and want to share their stories.
She talked about one woman who was sexually abused and another who was conned out of thousands of dollars via online dating. Some, like the female client who was in the construction industry, want to share what it’s like to work in nontraditional professions.
Most want Bush’s help in all three areas of writing, editing and publishing. Some seek just a publisher. About 75% of the books she’s published are the result of working with the authors from the very rough draft stage.
‘She encouraged the belief that this could be powerful’
While many publishers look for just any manuscript to publish, Bush will only take on projects that show promise of being more than something that sits on a coffee table or a dusty showpiece on a shelf.
“I’m committed to high quality books that can compete … books that transform the lives of my authors and readers,” Bush said. “Not just to say, ‘I wrote a book,’ but that they are doing something with it in the world.”
When Lindsey Schwartz’s path first crossed with Bush’s, she was a successful entrepreneur with a career in health and fitness, and no interest in writing a book.
But after hearing her story, Bush convinced her otherwise. That was in 2016. Today, Schwartz can add author to her resume. She has a podcast and founded the annual Powerhouse Women event that draws goal-oriented women together to help each other realize their dreams. Schwartz now heads a six-figure business.
And Schwartz’s book “Powerhouse Woman: How to get out of your own way, fulfill your unique purpose, and live a powerful life” was the jump start to it all.
“She helped me see what a book could do for my business, for my impact. She encouraged the belief that this could be powerful. I owe it all to her,” said Schwartz, who lives in Phoenix.
Schwartz said the book served as a way to pivot into working with fellow female entrepreneurs, which is something she’d wanted to do for a while. Bush was instrumental in making it happen.
“Writing a book is a big undertaking. There were a lot of times where you wonder if you can really do this,” Schwartz said. “Just to have that voice of encouragement and someone who could handle everything else to where I could focus on what I was good at, that really allowed the book to come to fruition.”
Business model adapted to quarantine
A native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bush’s mother owned a beauty shop next to their home. She practically grew up in the shop.
“I didn’t think I wanted to have my own business because I saw how much it took of her life,” Bush said.
Encouraging feedback from colleagues and friends inspired her path to entrepreneurism. The start was rocky. In Peacock’s second year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and the following year she underwent knee surgery. She overcame those challenges, including cancer.
Bush’s company is part of a $14.8 billion publishing industry, according to the Association of American Publishers.
She spends nine months of the year in her Mesa home and the other months in her hometown. She started her company as a virtual business and has used Zoom to meet with clients for years. This made it easy to do her job from anywhere with good Wi-Fi.
For 10 years at ASU, Bush developed curriculum and facilitated workshops and conferences to train other faculty members to teach more effectively in person and online.
This combination meant that Bush’s business was poised for quarantine times. She has seen an uptick in interest from people reprioritizing and, especially with more time spent at home, wanting to finally write that book they’ve talked about for years. Interest in publishing packages has increased because people have been doing the writing and editing themselves.
“The pandemic really had people look at what they really want in life and made them realize that, if they don’t do it now, they won’t do it,’” Bush said.
She talked about authors, like Schwartz, who were able to inspire readers while transforming their lives in ways they never envisioned — those that have developed podcasts and a following and received a new professional boost, all because of that first book.
In the early years of Peacock, Bush told clients that their books would make a difference. But at the time she had no first-hand evidence to back that up.
That, however, has since changed.
“I’ve seen it come to fruition now and it’s very gratifying,” Bush said. She pauses. There’s a crack in her voice that’s accompanied by the sound of impending tears. “And by making their dreams come true … mine comes true.”
What: Peacock Proud Press
Factoid: In 2019, the publishing industry was worth $14.8 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers.