Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the release of my first ever ebook/paperback, which made me think three main things:
01. WOW, but time flies, doesn’t it? I could swear I just wrote that thing, like, last week or something, but nope, here we are, one year already: WOW.
02. I should probably start thinking about writing that second book I’ve had on my ‘To Do’ list for… well, for a year now, basically. Oops.
03. Before I do that, it might be useful (for me, if for no one else), to take a quick look back at the whole e-book writing/self-publishing process, and find out what I learned from it. So, here goes…
01. I really freaking love blogging.
I mean, I already knew I loved blogging, obviously, but, because most of my posts are SO VERY LONG, I kind of assumed I’d love book writing just as much, and that it would basically just be like writing an even longer than usual blog post – if that’s even possible. I figured this would be a very freeing kind of experience, too, because, even although my posts are generally pretty long, I could easily make them longer if I allowed myself to, and I thought it would be nice to be able to just write exactly what I wanted to write, without having to worry about it being too long for a blog post.
The reality, though, was a little bit different: yes, I got to write as much as I wanted, and to cover ALL of the topics I wanted to talk about, but I also found it quite hard trying to organise that amount of writing, and to work out how to structure it, etc. I ended up changing things around so many times that I got thoroughly confused at times, and kept wanting to just start again from scratch – aaargh!
I also really missed the immediacy of blogging. Having been doing this for over a decade now, I’m used to being able to come up with an idea, write it down, hit ‘publish’, and be getting responses to it within minutes. Book writing, of course, is much slower, and it first it felt a bit like I’d just been talking to myself, because I knew people were buying it, but I had no idea what their reactions to it were – pretty nerve-wracking! Speaking of which…
02. It’s almost impossible to get feedback
OK, that’s not totally true: I actually got tons of really great feedback on social media, in my blog comments, and even by email. I got hardly any feedback, however, where I needed it most – on the Amazon reviews page for the book itself. I totally get it: I actually can’t even remember the last time I left an Amazon review for a book, and I know perfectly well how very important they are to the authors (Amazon takes reviews into account when deciding how to rank books on the search pages, so the more positive reviews you get, the better), so I can’t really expect anyone else to do it either! Also, I think people are so used to the convenience of commenting on social media/blogs etc, that it doesn’t occur to them to post a review elsewhere. Terry keeps telling me that I need to be more confident and just ask people to write a review, but that’s just not really me, unfortunately – I think I need a PR person to take care of that stuff for me!
03. People still love paperbacks
I initially released the book just as an ebook, purely because that was the easiest – and cheapest – way to do it. It sold pretty well in that format, but it was only when I decided to also release a paperback version that it really took off: actually, I was surprised to find that the paperback sold more than the ebook, and, even more surprisingly, its release seemed to boost sales of the ebook version too, so it was a win-win, really, and I wish I’d done it sooner!
I’d initially held off on releasing it in paperback form, partly because I wasn’t sure there would be a demand for it, but mostly because of the cost. Amazon’s print-on-demand service (Which means that each book is printed when it’s ordered, rather than you having to print books and keep them in stock) is awesome, but it’s also quite expensive, which meant that, in order to make any profit at all from it, I had to price the book a bit higher than I’d ideally have wanted. I felt really quite awkward about this – one of the other great things about blogging is that blogs are totally free to read, so if someone doesn’t like something I’ve written, at least they haven’t lost any money from the experience – and I worried about people objecting to the price. Luckily, though, that didn’t actually happen, and although I’d really just released the paperback version so that I could have a copy for myself, I was pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic my readers were about it too, so thank you all for that!
04. It provides a steadier form of income than advertising etc
My book is far from being a bestseller, but even although I’ve done very little to promote it (That’s another thing that’s been on my ‘To Do’ list forever!), the sales have ticked along fairly steadily ever since it was released. I’m not going to be able to retire from the royalties any time soon, but it does provide an additional income stream, which I think is really important for bloggers, or anyone making a living online.
05. Writing is not the only skill you need
Following on from the point above, I think one of the main things I’ve learned from this whole experience is that writing isn’t the only skill you need to self-publish a book: far from it, in fact. The process of turning the raw manuscript into an actual book that people can buy, for instance, is pretty time-consuming, and a little bit fiddly – or so it seemed to me, anyway. I was really lucky here in that I had Terry on hand to do much of this for me, but I still found it all a bit frustrating, because I’m super-impatient, and once I’d finished the actual writing, I wanted to release it RIGHTTHISVERYSECOND – which, of course, wasn’t actually possible.
The other skill I totally lack, which I touched on above, is the ability to promote myself effectively. As a very shy person, I really struggled to ask people to leave me reviews, and, even with the best will in the world, I found I just didn’t have the time to put into promotion. I know the book could have done much better if I HAD done those things, so if I do release any other books in the future, that’s something I’ll have to consider much more carefully.
06. It’s a little bit addictive
Writing and releasing that first book wasn’t the easiest process in the world, but now that I’ve done it, I’d love to write some more. I have a few ideas floating around in my head, so I just need to decide what I want my next topic to be… oh, and actually get round to writing it, of course! Watch this space… just, er, not too closely…