Why choose self publishing?

It’s a good question really?  Sure, ten years ago, I wouldn’t even have been considering self publishing my book.  I would have resigned myself to the whole rigmarole of finding an agent, who then finds a publisher, who then finds an editor etc etc.  The whole process would have taken me years of my time and a hefty amount of plucky resilience.  I would have gone to the stationery store and bought  a pretty,new file which I would entitle ‘Rejections’.  My poor little fragile ego would have taken a bashing and many times I might have given up the ghost and ‘got a proper job’ instead.

However times have changed.  The beauty of the internet is that it has opened up the door to people like myself.  Writers of niche books which do not have mass market appeal are now able to offer their thoughts to the world and anyone with a credit card and an internet connection has the chance to join the party.  At the moment, it’s like a street party and anyone is invited.  I would predict however that, just like any evolutionary cycle, it will be survival of the fittest before long.

So what makes you ‘fit’ in the self publishing world?  I would say that approaching self publishing as a business is the best way to go.  Seeing yourself as a professional who is duty bound to put quality work out into the world and package it as professionally as an established publisher would is essential to success.  Building a robust author platform is also a must.  You can’t be a reclusive Lee Harper type anymore.  No, no, no.  Now you’ve got to get out there and tweet and poke and post and link like your life depended on it.  Truth is that choosing the self publishing route as a writer doesn’t always leave you much space for writing.  And essentially, writing is what I love to do.

Sure I am enjoying learning about all this marketing stuff.  Truth be told, I am becoming a bit of a geek really.  I find myself downloading books about online marketing, building followers, creating platforms, branding, finding my authentic voice, publishing by the moon calendar… you name it, I am reading it.  I have spent whole weekends rebuilding my website, and lost what feel like months of my life trying to decipher twitter. (I still don’t know my @ from my elbow!)

There’s another reason why I have chosen self publishing and that is my location.  I live in New Zealand.  Not just in New Zealand, I live in Dunedin which is one of the southern most cities in the world.  In New Zealand, sheep outnumber people 4 to 1 and sheep don’t buy books.  Due to its isolation, books in New Zealand cost A LOT.  Your average paperback is around $25 which is double the minimum hourly wage.  In this country, unless you are an ex Rugby player or a soap opera actress or both (I am neither) the chances of even getting a foot in the door of a publisher are greatly diminished.  Even once your foot is in and you nab an elusive publishing deal, your sales figures are only likely to get into hundreds.  It’s not a great numbers game really.  Factor in the wait time between being accepted by a publisher and making it into print and suddenly you are collecting a pension before your first royalty check for $3 or thereabouts hits the doormat.  I am not a very competitive person.  I don’t fancy my odds.

So I have chosen to self publish.  It’s not the easy route.  I am developing a Jack of all Trades attitude and, I fear, mastery of none.  But you know what?  I am having a ball.  I love the idea of taking my destiny in my own hands.  I like ‘workin’ it’ like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and putting myself out there day after day.  It’s fun learning about SEO (WHAT?!?) and meta tags (double what?!?).

So why choose self publishing?  Because I am lucky that I can.  Because I have a product that I am proud of.  Because I want to share my message with as many readers as I can. Sure, I live in the back of beyond but I have the internet and I am darned well going to use it!

Why have you chosen the self publishing route?  Any cautionary tales for those of us just venturing out into the big bad world of self pub?  Any of you ex-Rugby-playing-soap-stars who still chose this route??  Love to hear your thoughts!  Post a comment to make me smile!

Kettle’s boiled – it’s teatime!

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Can I really create a blog in 20 minutes?

So when you are creating your author blog, how long is it going to take?  You are a busy creative,I know, I know, and time is money and all that!  It’s tempting to fall for those blog posts and email newsletters which promise you that you can really create a blog in 20 minutes and then just sit back and watch your stats pile up.

I believed them too.  Until I created a blog that is.  When I did that I realised that the reality is that registering for a blog takes 20 minutes but to actually create a blog with something for people to read is actually a much longer process.   Take this blog for instance…

Yesterday I sat down thinking that – yes, 20 minutes and I am up and running.  I logged onto my WordPress dashboard that I use for my other site and hit the button that said “create new blog” and the party began.  And what a party it was?  Not one of those sedate dinner party gatherings that ends at a reasonable time – oh no!  This turned into a downright “gathering” to which the Frustration police were called in the early hours of the morning… nuf said!

Still the blog was created – check!  Then I had to whip out the credit card to pay for a dot com domain so that visitors to the site would see a .com address rather than wordpress.com address which comes for free.  I know that this is a good idea – it oozes professionalism and professionalism is important to me.  But having made that decision, I then had to waste a half hour deciding on what I wanted that domain to be.  I have read enough books about making money online to know that your web address should be eminently searchable.  You are supposed to go through all sorts of rigmarole around search words and SEO ( note to self: what the heck is SEO?) but I was in a hurry as per normal so I just went ahead and hazarded a guess thinking that it should be related to what the blog was all about.  The temptation was to get all clever and literary and come up with a sparklingly witty blog name, but, you know, I was tired etc…  Ok decision made, domain available, credit card used.. Next step-

Then you have to go through it all again by coming up with a title for your blog.  Do you choose a name that you already have ie your own name?  Yes if you are wanting to build up a brand and you have the dream of creating lots of books.  This is the goal for my other site, so there I chose my name for the domain address and put the title of the book as the name of the blog – “Change Your Life From the Inside Out’.  I was invited to shell out a vast amount for their professional package and as a newbie I did pay the $99 fee because I thought I might need those extras.  In fact I have used them to alter fonts and colours and create some general niceness.  For this site, I didn’t do that, opting instead for just the domain name.

Then you need to choose your theme.  Oh the joy!  This is like real estate shopping except all the free ones are in your price range and so many look good.  Say goodbye to another half hour of previewing contenders until you eventually come back to the original choice.  I chose blissful blog because well … I liked the name, ok.  Plus it’s cute and a little bit (a lotta bit) feminine which is v. me!  A word about themes – steer clear of anything that looks too dark or space agey (unless you are dark and space agey in which case knock yourself out, buddy!)  For me, professional is about light and bright.  Not too many squiggles.  Think clean and elegant!

Ok so now we are onto headers.  Easier this time.  Flipped over to another window and searched images for ‘lady writing’.  Picked a pretty one, cropped it and pressed the button.  Yep all good and only 2 hours behind schedule!  Now onto the pages.  Keep it simple here.  At the moment on my site I do not have my book ready to sell but I do provide face to face coaching and hypnotherapy so I created a page for products and prices.  Then fill it up with some copy.  30 minutes – check!  An About Me page – do I go narcissistic or humble??  Instead I chose on the other site to speak about my service and say what I can offer to my clients and what my professional experience is.  On this site, I tended towards the mememe approach… As an author wanting to sell products, I may create another page on that website and call it “Books”.  Never let it be said that I am not an original thinker…

Next I needed a landing page, which is basically where people land on your site if they search for you direct.  This is the page which offers an insight into your service/offering and sets the tone for the site.  On my professional page, it is like this but for this site I wanted to focus on the challenge that I have set myself so it is slightly different in tone.  Make your Welcome Page nice and colourful and I would suggest that a picture is good.  I have even embedded a Youtube video on my welcome page (wow – such a whiz) which I had to teach myself how to do.  But by now you can imagine – my caffeine levels are running dangerously loowwww and I am in danger of a mercy run to the biscuit tin.  It’s already lunchtime and I still haven’t actually written a blog post. Grrrrr…

One caffeine stop later ad I am finally onto the blog bit because this is where I am going to be reaching out from and was (can you remember still) the point of starting this whole circus in the first place.  Make your first blog about the first question that you would ask if you had found your site.  Write as yourself not as some corporate robot who is just churning out generic copy.  If I wanted generic, I would go the the library, or read ‘The Secret” or something.  Be you – the writer – someone who is human and genuine and nice and dazzlingly witty (my head is swelling…)  Oh and one thing that I have learned is to put on an actionable step at the end of the post.  Not actionable as in ‘buy my book – it’s awesome’ or ‘pick up the phone and call me now.”  An actionable step is something that your reader can do or think about after they have got to the end of the post.

Then create some tabs and categories on the sidebar. I am still getting my head around tags so I will keep you posted on that.. Stick in some links by using the link icon at the top of the page and press publish.  I will talk about widgets later this week as I am currently navigating this learning process myself and even heard a whisper that widgets were easy to create yourself – What???  Do I sense another 3 hour “20 minute ” session a-brewing….  That’s enough.  I’m off for another cuppa – biscuit tin, watch out – I am heading your way!

Your actionable step today is to set a three hour window aside for the creation of your WordPress blog.  Be prepared for frustration and keep calm and carry on.  Oh and you could leave a comment below if you have some insights or questions – I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Over and out.  Gotta dash


Do I need a blog?

Ok, so the irony is not lost on me that I am blogging about blogging.  Thing is someone out there is currently blogging about blogging about blogging.  Crazy times, my friend…

As part of the self publishing journey, I am given to understand that me as a writer needs a blog.  Or is it that my product needs a blog?  What exactly is the value of a blog if you just want to get the word about your book out there?

I have been reading blogs for years and love them.  Why?  Because they give me a chance to get to know the person behind the product and the hype.  They give a personal insight into who has created the product and what their goal is.  It helps me to connect with where they are at as a writer and a human being.  If I like the person, then I might take the next step of visiting their Facebook page or signing up for email updates.  I am tentatively creating a relationship, saying ‘hey that’s cool, let’s keep in touch” albeit at an anonymous distance.

I created a blog to go with my professional website as a way of getting content out to potential clients.  Now I am not sure how to use that blog to convert clients to buyers or friends into customers….  I have had to think about how to use my blog in such a way that it doesn’t feel like I am giving the hard sell every other sentence.   Fine line stuff…

So how does creating a blog help to market a book?  Well first of all don’t make your blog all about your book.  Give your reader a chance to get to know you and what you are about.  Share your dazzling insights and give them tips that they can use today.  Remember that a blog is about building a relationship and letting your potential reader know that there are people out there who are creating products and general niceness for people like them to enjoy.  Write a blog not to sell but to enrich and connect.  Not every reader will come back or sign up.  Not every reader will buy your book.  And that is ok.  The important thing is to keep connecting and putting your energy out into the webosphere.

Yes and that is all lovely and esoteric and good etc.  But what about the nitty gritties of creating a blog.  Here are the questions I found myself asking:

  1. Do I need to self host? And what does that mean anyway?
  2. Can I really create a blog in 20 minutes?
  3. How can I make my blog appear on Google?
  4. What if nobody reads my blog?
  5. Can I sell my product through my blog?

Righty ho.  We have our list of learning objectives for the first part of this challenge.  I will post about these things in my experience over the next few days.

One thing I have learned is that I should give my reader an actionable step to complete on reading this blog.  So your actionable step is to comment below if you have a question about blogging that you would like me to investigate. And also to find five blogs that you like in your chosen field – what do you like about them?  Is it the tone?  The looks?  The content?  How could you learn from these bloggers in your own blogging?

Gosh have a great day.  Got to dash xxx