When I launched my ebook From Wannabe to Writer earlier this year, I held a Facebook Q&A event and I thought it would be helpful to compile the answers from that, as well as answers to reader questions I’ve received over the last few months.
Hopefully it will shed some light on the self-publishing processes and options – and show how even a naive little wannabe (like me) can navigate them…
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Q + A
What was your original plan for your first book, Housework Blues?
I wish I could say I was as organised as that. My ‘plans’ tend to evolve. (I call it The Creative Way…)
To begin with, all I intended was to jot down my thoughts and maybe shape them into an ebook.
The whole publishing journey took off from there, but it was a gradual process – maybe a couple of years from the first Word document to holding the book in my hands.
(That last bit made the rollercoaster ride worthwhile!)
Did you ever consider traditional publishing?
About 10 years ago, I tried approaching publishers and agents with my children’s books – to no avail. But with my housework book, it kind of evolved from an ebook, to a Kindle book, to a paperback. Only after I’d launched it and it had been selling for a while did I think a publisher might be interested.
At that point I began contacting agents again. Happily, the one I signed with had seen coverage of my book in the national press.
So, ironically, my self-publishing efforts resulted in getting an agent. In fact, many new authors are using self-publishing to get the attention of agents and publishers – it demonstrates their reach/platform and proves their ability to finish and market a book.
I wasn’t that intentional (savvy!) at the time, but it seems it can be one way of avoiding the dreaded Slush Pile.
Did you release both ebook and paperback versions of your first book?
Yes, I was selling both ebooks and paperback online.
The digital versions I sold through the usual channels (Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, B&N, etc) as well as from my website.
The paperback version was available from online retailers (Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones etc) and to order from bricks-and-mortar bookshops.
The printing (On-Demand) and fulfilment was handled by Lightning Source, so I didn’t need to hold any stock.
Did you have any marketing experience?
I had no clue about marketing initially but with the internet – and a book budget – it’s all learnable. (There’s a Recommended Reading list enclosed with the ebook).
I admit that, for a total newbie, it could get a bit overwhelming at first – but there’s usually no need to rush.
Plus, I’m finding that it’s an ongoing learning process. There’s always something new to discover about human behaviour and the way technology influences readers and how best to reach them.
Can you share a little about your approach to marketing your book and growing your list?
Do you recommend blogging, speaking, free content?
Giving away sample chapters has worked really well for me, as has blogging.
I haven’t tried speaking – though I know many authors find that it really helps with back-of-the-room sales.
The internet is FANTASTIC for establishing your platform and profile. There are so many ways to do it; social media, email marketing, blogging, video, podcasts etc.
I’d say choose the one you find the most fun and go with that.
Do you expand on these topics in your ebook? For example, for someone who knows nothing about PR?
Like me! Yes, I have chapters devoted to building a list, getting the media coverage, hitting the bestseller lists, getting an agent and a big section on all my marketing efforts.
Any advice for rising the ranks on Amazon?
My quick tip for Amazon rank success: encourage sales in a small time frame.
This pushes the book up the ranks more than the same number of sales spread out over time. Many authors are using free promotion periods to do this – with outstanding success. (My lovely Twitter friend and fellow indie author, Rachael Lucas, for example.)
PR can also create a quick rise up the rankings. This is what happened when my book was featured in the national press and again when I was interviewed on Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio 4).
The great thing about hitting the Amazon bestseller lists is that even when the promo period is over, the book can still sell well, thanks to Amazon’s promotion loop. (Ie, Customers Also Bought, You Might Also Like… etc.)
Having the Mighty Amazon behind your book can be a powerful strategy.
How do you recommend getting round ‘The Knowledge Curse’, ie believing all the things I know are so obvious to me, what’s the point putting them in a book? Why would anyone bother reading a book I write?
I can absolutely relate to this issue.
We do undervalue what we know – thinking it’s common knowledge. But we all know things others don’t! I agree it can be hard to feel total confidence in the value of our experience. When/if I master it – I’ll let you know!
Also, I try to remember this advice;
They can benefit from your experience and will appreciate you sharing it.
Which parts of the self-publishing process would you recommend outsourcing to an expert?
Given that freelance help is so easy to find online, and there are so many self-publishing specialists, I would outsource anything that makes you want to avoid your project!
Anything technical that gives you a headache (eg, Kindle conversion!), if you can, hand it over to the experts.
Are there process components that you’re hiring out for From Wannabe to Writer?
I hired an editor, which I would always recommend. They spot so many things that writers miss, being so close to our own words.
My editor for this project was Kris Emery, who is an absolute gem. I was so grateful for her eagle eye – even though I’d quadruple checked my manuscript, Kris found all the little errors that I’d missed, and some I didn’t even know were wrong.
I felt much more confident releasing it to the world, knowing that she’d rounded up all those niggly typos and mistakes that can really irritate readers.
But not only can a good editor improve the calibre of your book, she can also be a vital supporter and champion of your project.
Being an indie author can be a scary and lonely journey, so having an encouraging third party in your corner can be very reassuring. (Especially during those eleventh hour wobbles…)
Are you completely self-publishing From Wannabe to Writer? And what about future books?
There are no plans to pursue a conventional deal for Wannabe, it was only meant to be a small, personal project. I just wanted to sum up what I went through in the hope that it might be helpful to others just beginning the self-publishing journey.
My next project, The Muse Spa, I’m planning as an online course but I’m also tempted to create a book proposal for it. I’ll use Danielle LaPorte’s Big Beautiful Book Plan as my guide (can’t wait to play with that!)
I’ll see how it develops and also see what my agent thinks about it working as a ‘real’ book. Watch this space!
You mentioned having more targeted PR in the future….could you expand a bit on what you meant and what you’d do differently?
More targeted PR for me means not just trying to get any publicity in any channel.
I’ll be selective about whether or not the audience is likely to be interested. I know the old maxim; any publicity is good publicity, but I plan to spare myself the heartache and tears of being rejected and criticised by people who I’m not right for.
I think the most successful marketing is simply finding where your right people will be, and then connecting with them.
I’m learning fast that focused efforts in the right places are so much more effective than scattershot publicity, ie just trying to reach everyone and anyone – regardless of whether or not they want what you’ve got.
How many blogs do you write and maintain at this point?
In a bid to simplify, I’ve recently moved all my blogging antics to danielleraine.com – though I do keep having ideas about starting new ones…
How many websites do you have and maintain at this point?
I’ve got about 5 or 6 websites at the moment. Some need some regular attention, whilst others are ticking along quite nicely on autopilot.
I manage them myself using WordPress, which I found quite easy to use (eventually).
What is your writing schedule like?
Lately it’s great – I’m now doing a mix of ‘my stuff’ and freelance design/copywriting work which leaves me quite a bit of breathing room.
I try to stick to the school hours/days (my boys can get a bit boisterous!), but I do a lot of reading/note-taking/scraps-organising during evenings, weekends etc.
So these days, it’s a happy balance of family, writing and design work. It’s taken me over a decade to find this groove though!
How do you juggle writing life with family commitments, especially children?
It can be a juggling act but I find the more I make the time to write, the more I find the time to write.
The hardest part is when you slip out of the habit…. Getting back into the flow can be tough. (But it’s always worth the effort.)
When will your ebook for introvert writers be ready?
My next ebook An Introvert’s Guide to Book Promotion is bursting to be created and will hopefully be ready before the end of the year.
And finally… can you tell us a bit about the book deals you turned down? And why!
The two book deals I walked away from were both housework-related books.
They required cleaning tips and housework advice – not my specialty at all, I’m afraid. There are far more qualified domestic goddesses out there. Plus, I feel I’ve said all I can about housework blues and I’m over the worst of that particular challenge.
So, for now, I’m turning my attention to my next challenges; unravelling the mysteries of inspiration and the creative process!
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For the full scoop of my writing,
self-publishing and book-promotion journey…
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My rollercoaster ride to becoming a writer.
The highs. The lows. The short-cuts.
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If you’ve ever wanted to write a book….
If you’d like to shortcut your learning curve….
If you want to truly believe that it’s possible to go from wannabe to successful writer…
This is for you.
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” Smart people learn from their own mistakes.
The really smart people learn from the mistakes of others.”
~ Brandon Mull