Speak in Your Voice with Marlena Banks (Re-Air)

19 January 2024

Click here to listen to the full episode!


Do you worry that your writing isn’t “good enough”? You know you’ve been called to write, but you keep comparing yourself to others and trying to create a better image of yourself to show the world. Or maybe you’re afraid of putting yourself out there before you’re “ready” and have all the resources and people lined up to make it happen. 


If that’s you, this week’s Publishing Secrets guest, Marlena Banks, has a word of encouragement for you. Listen and let Marlena encourage you to use what you already have and show up as your full, authentic self.


In this episode, you’ll also hear:


  • The important first step Marlena took once she had decided her audience and the type of book she was going to write
  • Marlena’s journey to finding the right title for her book
  • The difference between a cover designer and an interior designer — and why you need both
  • Why Marlena recommends putting together a full presentation to walk potential investors through your vision — and why it’s useful even if you aren’t looking for investors
  • Marlena’s advice on being fully authentic in your writing

Writing Authentically


Like many people, Marlena Banks says that growing up often involved not feeling like herself. As a result, she had a strong desire to express herself creatively and to leave her mark on the world. That’s why it was important to her that her book, Big Idea Food: A Weekly Devotional for Entrepreneurs, Side Hustlers & Dreamers, be written in her unique, authentic voice. 


While Marlena clarifies that she didn’t necessarily make a conscious choice to “be her most authentic self,” she did take inspiration from her journals while writing, and she made an effort to write in a way that was true to the message she knew God was calling her to share.


“There was no other way to write,” she explains. “I didn’t hear it any other way except to share what was truthfully shared with me in the way it was shared with me. But, in hindsight, it was very important to me that, if I put this out there, it expresses me. I didn’t want to open this book five years later and be like, ‘That is not who I was!’ So it really brings me joy to know that this is like a snippet in time of my most ‘selfiest’ of selves.”


Marlena’s authentic voice speaks well to her target audience, in part because she wrote it for people like herself: millennial entrepreneurs. But, although she felt that Big Idea Food was the perfect way to express her faith and share her God-given message, she started by scoping out the market first to see if someone had already done something similar. 


To her surprise, there were no other books on the market like the one she intended to write. This made her even more excited to write it herself, and it confirmed that she had truly found her niche. 

Finding the “Big Idea”


Before Big Idea Food and the start of her entrepreneurial journey, Marlena worked as a freelancer for almost ten years. “I did a lot of work for up-and-coming startups, mom-and-pop shops — people who have visions and dreams — and I helped create identities for them,” she says. “I just spent so much time with people who were just like me, who felt like, ‘I know I have so much to do in this world. God has shown me a vision.’” 


Eventually, working with all of these “big ideas” and visions inspired the name of her devotional book, because she wanted to encourage people to view God’s Word as fuel for their ideas and endeavors. 


She describes the book and its bite-sized devotionals as “Red Bull for your faith” or an energy bar to give entrepreneurs a quick boost when they’re feeling discouraged or in low spirits. “God’s word really fuels all of the seeds that He planted inside of you,” she adds. “The activation that occurs when God’s word hits the calling and the seeds that He has planted in you, it really brings the fruit.”


For an extra spiritual energy boost, Marlena titled each chapter with an affirmation to help readers immediately ground themselves in God’s truth and to deliver maximum value in a relatively short word count. 

Assembling the Team


Even though Marlena’s background is in marketing, she realized early in the self-publishing process that she needed expert help to launch her book successfully. She started by researching and hiring an editor and then branched out to add more members to her little self-publishing team. 


As a graphic designer, Marlena planned to design the book cover herself — but she quickly realized she was out of her depth and needed help with that, too. 


“I was too close to the project,” she says in retrospect. “This was a lesson for me that sometimes when God is calling you into those higher levels of your purpose, or to the next season, even, sometimes you’ve got to let go of those old talents and the old season.”


Marlena’s experience is an important reminder that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. It’s tempting to try to do everything yourself, but it really takes a team of talented individuals working together to publish a high-quality book. 


That said, Marlena has also learned that focusing too much on the resources you don’t have can prevent you from moving forward. Assembling a dream team can be expensive, and Marlena knew she didn’t have enough money yet to hire everyone she needed. But what she did have was the ability to put together a presentation about her idea, which she used to secure financial investments. 


“You need to communicate your vision,” she says. “You need to get out of your head, get out there, and talk to people about what you’re doing. And I’m telling you, that’s all you need. God just needs you to take those steps, and He will order them. He will bless them. He will provide what you need.”

Building a Community


Once you do step out in faith and follow God’s leading, trusting that He will provide the resources you need to make your vision a reality, you may be surprised by where you end up. 


Beyond the book, Marlena’s calling led her to establish a community of like-minded people who strive to follow God’s direction in their creative and professional pursuits. Not only does this community allow Marlena to build the type of relationships she’s always wanted, but it also empowers her and the other members to make an impact for God’s Kingdom in their respective spheres of influence. 


Even starting this community took a leap of faith on Marlena’s part, however. Not only did she have to obey God’s prompting to leave her job so she could focus on launching Big Idea Food, but she also had to launch before she felt “ready.” 


“I was going to plan and make things all perfect for the launch,” she recalls. “And then the pandemic hit, and then I felt a push, like, ‘No, you don’t need to perfect this thing. People need community right now — your people, the ones that I am sending to you. Right now.’”


If you, like Marlena, feel God calling you to do something before you think you’re ready, let Marlena’s story inspire you to do it. It may be scary, but if you are willing and obedient, God will expand your territory and open more doors than you can even imagine.

Telling Your Story in Your Voice


Sometimes your calling and your God-given message are easy to follow and express, but often aspiring authors struggle to share their message in their own voice. If that’s you, Marlena encourages you to remember that God gave you a unique voice and message — and He gave it to you for a reason. 


Someone out there needs to hear you tell your story as only you can, and hiding behind an inauthentic voice only gets in the way of that. 


“When you show up as yourself, you truly, truly, do empower others to do the same,” Marlena says in closing. “And we need more of that. We need fewer copies out here. And we need more of our authentic who God called us and made us to be.”


Meet Marlena

, Speak in Your Voice with Marlena Banks (Re-Air)

Marlena Banks is the founder of Big Idea Food™, a Christian media brand that produces faith-fueling content for entrepreneurs & creatives. Since releasing the Big Idea Food™ book, a down-to-earth, faith-based devotional for entrepreneurs in 2018, she’s continued to grow the brand’s offerings to include a weekly devotional newsletter, edge-snatching social media content, a growing membership community & business coaching. She’s found admirers across the globe including Yvonne Orji from the powerhouse show Insecure and other faith based entrepreneurs and tastemakers. 


When she’s not speaking at inspirational events or podcasts like this, you can find her curating faith-filled programming inside her community, Big Idea Food™ TRIBE or coaching early-stage founders to launch & grow their big ideas into the influential businesses God has called them to be. Her ultimate mission is to elevate the influence of more Christian creators so that, together, we can positively impact our world at the level God intended. Learn more about Big Idea Food™ and sign up for the weekly newsletter at bigideafood.com/subscribe


Visit Marlena’s website here. Connect with Marlena on Instagram and Facebook.

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