I’d say that the TOP question I get asked by people looking to publish a book is:
“Should I publish an eBook or a paperback?”
That’s a great question! Here’s the quick and easy answer:
I’m a firm believer that you should publish your book in BOTH versions! And here’s why:
- Lower cost to buy – People who are price resistant are more likely to buy it
- Instantly available – If your book solves a pain, people don’t want to wait for their solution
- Available anywhere – Print books though Amazon aren’t available in all countries (or its cost prohibitive to ship!) so an eBook solves that problem
- Wave of the future – Just like postal mail, printed books are never going away but eBooks are the current technology
- Highly portable – Big or small, your book weighs exactly the same as the eReader used to read it
If you read my newsletter (you DO subscribe, right?) you know I regularly expand my comfort zone: so far in 2014 I’ve:
- Learned how to rappel
- Done a 5-day backpacking trip
- Flown a helicopter
- Went kayaking on Lake Powell during a holiday weekend
- Learned how to rock climb
- And these are just the highlights!
Fine me on Facebook for pictures!
Tomorrow I’m expanding my business comfort zone: I’m offering my first-ever free training call.
I LOVE speaking from stage. I can’t sing (or dance or act) but I love being handed a microphone! And this is just another “stage” – although I’ll be a voice on the phone instead of in person.
So why is this expanding my business comfort zone?
Because I’m slamming up hard against one of the misconceptions that keep people from writing their book:
Even if I publish it, nobody will read it. Nobody wants to read what I have to write.
When I’m first working with a new client, one of the questions that ALWAYS comes up is:
How long should my book be?
I get it, you want to write a book that has enough heft to it that people really think they are getting a lot of bang for their buck.
Let me ask you a different question, though:
Publishing a book and claiming the title “Published Author” instantly boosts your credibility as an expert in your field. It helps you get new clients and attract attention of people who’ve never looked at you before.
And when you publish that book, you should be sure to explain why you were already an expert BEFORE you wrote the book. This is where your “About the Author” page really needs to highlight your knowledge, training, and degrees.
But what do you do if you’re just getting started and don’t have a lot of history, credibility, expertise to put on your “About the Author” page?
Then call in a third-party expert!
I’m working on a pet project eBook; it’s something completely outside my field and is pretty much just something I wanted to write about.
And here’s the problem: I have ZERO credibility about this subject. Nothing. Nada. Zip. It’s a new subject matter and I have no history of writing or publishing in this genre.
Before I go any further, it’s not a genre that really NEEDS a boatload of credibility. Plenty of people write successful, helpful titles with no more knowledge than I have. (I’m not writing about finance or romance or legal stuff.) But it is in the health industry and other than being healthy, I really don’t have any creds to offer.
(FYI: This book is NOT about weight loss, exercise, vitamin, or diet plan.)
What I do have is a friend.
Who’s a PhD.
In the health industry.
Now HE has credibility, right? Even without telling you exactly what his degree is in (pharmacy) just by telling you he’s got his doctorate you already view him in higher respect for this health-related-topic than me.
And you should!
I asked him to write the foreword to my book.
This means that of all the other books in this niche, mine will stand out because I have a forward written by a person who can start his name with “Dr.” and end it with “PharmD” (his actual degree).
How did I get him to write this foreword for me?
It was super hard and took a lot of work and effort and was scary and…
I sent him a message and asked him.
- He asked for a bit more details about the book. (I was prepared with a rough draft to send him.)
- He said he wasn’t much of a writer. (I explained I needed 3-5 paragraphs showing why doing X is good for your health.)
- He asked for clarification about what I wanted. (Deadline was the end of two weeks. Please include your official title and how you want me to list your name.)
And then he said okay.
Now, here’s something to remember: I happened to have a friend who is a practicing pharmacist with a PhD in pharmacy and had the time to help me out. For free.
But what if I didn’t have a friend who would be the PERFECT credible person to write my foreword?
Six Degrees, Kim!
My mom is always shouting (I mean that literally) “Six Degrees, Kim!”
What she means is that it’s really easy to find somebody who can help you out if you just ask one question:
“Who do you know who knows ______?”
And that blank can be a specific person: “Who do you know who knows Suzanne Evans?” or it can be a skill set “Who do you know who knows how to read & write Italian?”
All you need to do is reach out to your network and ask the question: “Who do you know who knows ______?” (It’s important to mention that the question isn’t “Do YOU, friend, know how to do ABC?” The answer is usually no. If it was yes, you’d have asked them for help already!)
So, now you know how to FIND the person who can write your forward, how do you go about asking them for their endorsement?
I’d prepare these items in advance of your conversation:
- Book draft or proposal. (I’m writing a book about how doing X helps your health.)
- Exactly what you need. (3-5 paragraphs showing why doing X is good for your health.)
- When you need it by. (Deadline: May 15.)
When you are contacting the person you need to:
- Explain how you got their name. (Although hopefully your friend will have offered and introduction!)
- Thank them for their time.
- Outline your project.
- Ask if they’d be willing to write a short foreword.
- Share exactly what you’re looking for and when you need it by.
Here’s the key: this is a busy professional you’re talking to. You want to be clear and succinct and respectful of their time. You don’t need to send them the book draft (or book proposal) if they don’t request it.
In my experience, most people are more than happy to help you out. And they’ll do it for free.
But don’t forget your manners! Even if they say no, send a thank you card (go for the big bucks and MAIL a real, handwritten card!) If they say yes, send them the thank you card AND a copy of the book when you get it done.
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I do a lot of consultations with entrepreneurs who are looking to write a book in their niche. And this is a GREAT idea since it can help you really get your message out there, increase your reach, credibility and perceived expertise.
But sometimes these same entrepreneurs admit to me, rather sheepishly, that they have ANOTHER book project they’d just love to work on. Something that has NOTHING to do with their niche, business, or expertise. I really think they’re looking for permission to branch out and do something that really won’t forward their business at all.
Except that these “other” projects really DO help you forward your business!
Take for example, Pastarelli. I’ve written about him in a few articles. This book has NOTHING to do with writing and publishing blogs and books or with the other niche I write in, outdoor recreation. So why does this completely different project make me a better business owner?
Because Pastarelli is a passion of mine. And while I know that I need to keep the main thing the main thing, I’ve found that by doing something different has really increased my passion and creativity IN the main thing. But taking a break and writing something completely different is another way to re-charge your batteries and keep things fresh.
I’ve got two projects in the works that are completely out of my normal writing scope (and one is completely out of my comfort zone!)
I have sponsored events and had trade show booths a LOT throughout my professional career. And I’ve created a ton of tricks, tips, idea, and checklists that I really want to share. This book has nothing to do with anything in my current business. BUT the information keeps rattling around in my brain looking to get out.
I haven’t quite figured out how to turn this into a list-building exercise but I think the possibility is there. See, I have these GREAT checklists for trade show booth setup and I would like to offer this as a bonus to people who buy the book. What I’m not sure about is if THOSE people would be interested in a newsletter about writing…
(I’d LOVE your thoughts on that!)
This is a pretty small project. Like a rainy Saturday afternoon when it’s too nasty to hike and I’m too brain dead to really work.
A novel. Yep, I’ve been slowly outlining and planning a novel. I started in November, actually, collecting ideas and beginning my research. A novel is COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone and I’ll admit I’ve been a little freaked to even start writing. Jotting down ideas and doing research is WAY easier than actually beginning.
And I’ve been a little bit let off the hook because I refuse to start such a monumental project when I’m still in the middle of the LAST monumental project I’ve started: video.
But the video project should be launching in the next 10- to 14-days so I’m rapidly running out of excuses about the novel.
Now here’s the thing with BOTH of these other projects. I will be spending time, energy, creativity and effort on them. But I know that neither is really my MAIN THING. But both are side projects that will help with my overall creativity!
And, the novel is a goal of mine for 2014: Write Something That Scares You
So here’s the advice that I give to all those sheepish entrepreneurs who ask me about the “other” project they have brewing. Go for it! Enjoy the process but know when you need to come back to the main thing.
I’m the first to admit I think playing games on my Kindle Fire is a BAD IDEA. I figured out pretty early on that I get “addicted” to an activity pretty quickly; there’s no such thing as “just five minutes” for me. Knowing this, I uninstall the games that come with my computer and avoid Facebook games like the plague. Since I know I can’t quit once I’ve started I just don’t start at all.
When I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tablet two weeks ago I knew I would need to avoid the game section of Google Play. After all, the tablet is a tool and I bought it for one purpose in my business. And then my honey showed me “Pop Star” on his iPad. I knew that I would love it. I tried for three days to avoid downloading it to the Galaxy but I finally have in and downloaded a similar game, “Crush Star”.
(Same game rules, different scoring.)
I’ll admit it, I lost a fair amount of my weekend to the game. I used every excuse under the sun to play including that I was “stuck” on a project and needed to clear my head. Yeah right! I’m just avoiding the project.
Then I realized something. First off, the game isn’t challenging anymore; I’ve found the pattern that lets me win more than I lose. But what I realized was that this pattern, this philosophy, a way of looking three steps ahead, is actually something that completely and totally translates to writing books.
I felt no small amount of vindication that my “lost” hours really weren’t lost!
So let me introduce you to “Crush Star”.
The goal is to get rid of all the colored squares. The more of one color you can put together, the more points you earn. You have to earn a certain number of points per level to move on. When you crush the blocks, any blocks ABOVE the ones you crush move down. If you clear a whole column, the remaining columns move to the right. And you can only “crush” the squares when two or more are touching. (Diagonals don’t count; they have to share a common edge.)
As you can see from this game board, there is a large block of blue squares. When I first started to play, I would happily crush the blue squares and then move on to hunting down and destroying groups or two to three. I liked the graphics, the music, and the sound the blocks made as they were eliminated.
But I was pretty much getting stuck at about level 5. I just couldn’t earn enough points to move on. So I started paying attention to how the points were awarded.
2 blocks – 20 points
3 blocks – 45 points
4 blocks – 80 points
5 blocks – 125 points
6 blocks – 18- points
7 blocks – 245 points
As you can see, the more blocks you crush at one time, the more points you earn.
And then I figured out the REAL key:
You have to think long-term about how the blocks will slide together was you crush certain blocks. Sometimes you have to crush a two- or three-block group to make the biggest grouping of same-colored blocks.
By looking ahead, and knowing the end goal (blue blocks together) in just seven moves, I was about to create a SIXTEEN block group. That group alone was worth 1,280 points.
So how does this relate to writing a book?
When I work with my clients, often times we work with the content THEY ALREADY HAVE to create their book. It’s a lot like the starting game board: a large chunk is already done. A few key (new) chapters later, the pieces of the whole book slide in to place.
Okay, that’s a pretty metaphor. But GETTING to the place where the book slides in to place… There are two ways:
Way One: When you have ENOUGH content already written for other things: blogs, newsletters, articles, white papers, etc., the book will become self-evident. Patterns, themes and similar topics will become noticeable and THAT will become your book. And depending on the volume of content you start out with, you may have enough for a few books.
This is like hunting down the groupings that the game board just GIVES you.
But eventually you run out of the “stuff” you’ve already created. Sooner or later, you’ll need to start from having SOME content but not a lot. Then, you’ll write strategic articles that will start to create the framework of your book and fill in the gaps. THIS is the top-level game play.
Way Two: You have the outline of the book. You start writing the articles that you have to write anyway but instead of random articles about your topic, you’re driving toward a goal. Every piece of writing becomes strategic; either THIS book or the NEXT book.
When I first started self-publishing my books I had a HUGE backlist of articles. I had six years of newsletters and blogging under my belt. When I did an inventory, I discovered I already had 20 campfire stories, 90 recipes, 12 articles about trout fishing, and 30 camping articles.
I took the content I already had written to create:
- 2 books of campfire stories, fifteen stories each (I wrote ten new stories)
- 3 cookbooks of 33 recipes each (I had to create about five recipes to fit into my categories)
- 1 book about trout fishing (about 30% new content to fill in the gaps)
- 1 book about beginning tent camping (about 40% new content to fill in the gaps)
I then created my blog’s calendar so that I was writing a new campfire story every month; I published my third book of campfire stories six months later. (Many of the stories can ONLY be found in the book.)
I’ve published an additional 20 new recipes; I’ll have a fourth cookbook late spring.
And then there’s this blog: I put the eventual book(s) plan into place before I posted a single article. I’m looking long-term and making sure all my “crushed blocks” are moving me closer toward my next book.
And now, I’m off to download Angry Birds!
I remember the anticipation the most; I had spent weeks working on the project and I was 99.9% sure that the fruit of my labors was waiting for me in my PO Box. I leaned down to open my box; it’s only three rows up from the bottom. I took a deep breath and turned the key.
It was waiting for me. A non-descript brown cardboard package, deceptively lightweight. My mom was waiting for me in the truck; we were just about to head to town for a grocery shopping trip.
Do I open it here, in the Post Office, alone, or wait until I was in the truck, with an audience? I was sure I was going to cry. That decided it for me; if I was going to cry I wanted it to be with only my mom watching and not the whole of a small town Post Office. I didn’t bother to pick up the mail in the four other PO boxes I checked daily but walked quickly out into the late summer sunshine and back to the truck.
My hands were trembling as I pulled back the cardboard zipper. That surprised me. It wasn’t the first time, exactly. I had been here before, almost.
The package opened in my lap. I was glad I was sitting down.
When I was in college, I decided that I should treat my writing like a business. I had a very small portfolio of work – mostly poems since my major was Creative Writing but my emphasis was poetry. Still, I knew that I had enough work to start sending out submissions and begin collecting rejection letters.
One of the first rules of submission is to carefully study the magazine or journal you’re submitting to. Then, you submit a piece (or write a piece) that meets the tone, style, and subject matter of where you want to be published. You could buy a copy of most literary journals for $20. And then submit three poems, no longer than a page, for another $20.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I had a three hour break between classes. I designated this time “Submission Time”. Tuesdays I found places to submit, Thursdays I stuffed envelopes with poems. And checks.
I realized quickly that it added up. Fast. So I skipped the step that said study the publication and just started submitting to every contest, call for submission, and open reading period I could find.
One afternoon I was in the hallway of the English building and I saw a flier for a literary journal that was specifically for undergrads. More specifically, you had to be 1. an honors student; 2. attending a college with an honors program; and 3. the college’s honors program had to be in a certain nation-wide network. Amazingly, I met all the qualifications. I’d never heard of the journal but decided I’d give it a go. I popped a poem in an envelope and sent it off.
Weeks later, I got an answer: my very first publication for a poem called “Ode to a Tuna Fish Sandwich.” My dad sent flowers; my whole family got copies of the journal for Christmas. I was a published author – one little poem among thirty other undergrads who had also been published in that year’s edition.
How could this moment in my truck be so different than back in college with my first ever publication? Why was I shaking? Wasn’t this old hat? After all, I’d been published in journals, anthologies, trade publications, and travel magazines.
But it was different. Very different.
In my hands I held my book. MY book. With my name on the cover in yellow print in my favorite font that I called the Butter-Bear font even though the real name is butterbrotpapier.
I handed it to my mom. She opened it and saw the simple, two word dedication: For mom. We both cried, sitting in the truck, flipping through the pages, admiring the word PROOF across the last page. I knew I still had work to do: the title on the cover wasn’t centered, there was a typo in the first sentence of chapter three. I needed to carefully go over every word and scan for typos, mistakes, bad grammar, and clunky sentences.
I was surprised to realize that my self-published book didn’t feel at all like a cop-out or like a lesser-quality book than any other book I’d been published in before. I was stunned to realize how REAL it felt. To be a published author with a solo book. To know I had done it, finally. There was the dream of being a published author that I never realized hadn’t been completely fulfilled as a one-among-many author.
And yes, I gave out copies of my book for Christmas to my parents and grandparents and aunts. But the real gift was the one I gave myself when I realized my dream in publishing the book in the first place. Every time I publish a new book and hold it in my hands for the first time I get the same feeling – the whoosh in my stomach, my hands tremble, and I cry to hold the book in my hands with my name on the cover.
If I could, I’d bottle this feeling and serve it in little glasses to anyone who has ever wanted to publish a book. Just a little taste, a sample in a tiny crystal sherry glass. Just enough to feel the magic of having the book published; the gift to yourself. Then I’d help you realize the publishing dream. And take a photo of your face when you pull back the cardboard zipper and see your book sitting there with your name on the cover.
It’s a great feeling.
First published in Happier Healthier Women magazine.