Today I’m writing to you with some lessons and thoughts from the author’s desk. I am a language tutor, turned blogger, turned nearly-done-author of two “Smart Guides to Language Learning”, and currently in the middle of all the work that goes into self-publishing. It’s rewarding to write your own book, put it out on virtual and even real shelves and slowly see how the world engages with it. But one thing that I do not think I would call this process is “easy”. When I first published my book Fluency Made Achievable, I was dabbling. I put a lot of effort into proofreading and working through the script by myself, but I was not confident enough to show the script and exercises to many people. The reviews of the book were ready after it was published. They were excellent and supportive, but still I believed I’ve not done this right.
So where did that leave me? in front of my computer, eyeing up the Kindle sales dashboard and incredulous at every sale. The author of the book felt like she was a fraud! I was fed up with myself. I was ready to do this again, to collect all my courage and believe the book can be better, bigger and more beautiful. I hit “unpublish” on Kindle and vowed to write an extra chapter, then re-issue the book and REALLY make some noise this time.
Now it’s four months later. That extra chapter turned into a whole new book. My two books are so nearly done. I can’t wait to share them (please do sign up for my list to get to see my new books) – but before then, I want to tell you a bit more about the process. Behind the scenes of book writing, there are some big and small questions when you republish or rewrite, and lessons to be learnt from the first book launch. This quick summary is written from within the “battlefield” of a launch, and I cannot tell you if every strategy will work out. But what I can promise you is that these are thoughts I didn’t even have the first time I published my book, and so they’re definitely worth reading if you’re working up to the process.
1) Can I Publish A Collection of Blog Articles?
When you blog, you work on a single idea in your mind and get into the flow of your article with relative ease. But with a book, there’s a larger picture to what you are producing. It’s more difficult to break up your writing into many subheadings, and can be a true pain to keep track of what you are producing. Writing a book instead of a blog article means keeping a reader engaged and entertained through the structure of your story, staying on a single project for much longer and deleting a lot more unsuitable chapters. It is no wonder that many first-time writers prefer to create a collection of blog articles or short stories, and personally I would encourage you to give it a go. You will not benefit from the same creative lessons, but your confidence will rocket, you will boost your blog’s image and stand proudly as someone who has something to say.
2) Do I Need an Editor or Can I Save Some Money Here?
When I first worked on Fluency Made Achievable, I had just a proofreader and my boyfriend. But this time, I am working with a wonderful editor. Not only is she someone who I have bonded with over the many challenges we face as independent home-based businesswomen (think tinned soup lunches), but I have also found the support and belief that I didn’t even know I needed. Writing a whole book all by yourself is HARD. It demands more discipline, self-belief and willpower than you could expect, so you will need that external driver. Having an editor will elevate the book and make my language and thoughts that much better and clearer. Having a person that you are responsible to will make you a better writer. It will make you produce something, and stop standing in your own way quite as much. In other words, get an editor that you trust. They are very valuable.
3) Should I Put This Out On Kindle?
When I first published my book, I put it out on the Kindle store. André gave me some excellent advice, in fact. He asked “Why would you deliberately avoid putting your book into the world’s largest bookshop?” But actually, we’re independent people here. Amazon and Kindle are incredibly supportive for first time author/publishers, but they also create a crowded marketplace in which no buyer knows what kind of quality you are producing. I also found that publishing my book through Amazon made me feel frustrated because I was unable to offer the extras I would have loved to give my readers, like videos, audio content and events. When you sell on Amazon, you don’t know who’s bought your book. So the ultimate question here is “Who are you writing the book for?” If it’s for your website readers first and foremost, then consider making Amazon the second (not the first) place of publication. You keep the copyright of your own product, so it’s ever possible to experiment and draw the best conclusions for yourself.
4) Why Do I Keep Changing My Mind?
My working titles are just that: Working Titles. The books changed names at least 25 times before I settled on a title. And along the way, I edged closer to the true book every day. The same goes for the draft, the cover, the chapter structure, everything. You can see a glimpse of my process on my Instagram. Book writing is ever edging towards success, but one thing I know. When I publish this thing, it’s not because it is finished or perfect. It will never be finished or perfect in my eyes. When I publish, it’s because I’ve been disciplined enough to set myself a deadline and decide that this is when I am “good enough”. Last time I received a wonderful set of 5 Star reviews and a very warm welcome – this time it’s a bit less scary as a result. I have decided to publish both books on the same date, and make them consistent as parts of a series of “Smart Guides To…”, but I would have never done this if it had not been for hours of doubt and discussion with my partner. Have a patient sounding board, but accept that you will change your mind all the time.
5) Am I Just Messing Around Here?
Not having a traditional publisher means doing away with a lot of external credibility. After all you are the one standing up and declaring yourself an author. Here, I only have one lesson, and that is to go PRO right from day 1. Invest what you can in telling people about this book, in making it pretty and adding in anything that you want. Your technology and experience are not up to traditional publisher standards, so you have to ask people how to do this thing. Take their advice seriously, stand up tall and hire someone to do the things you don’t want to do. That’s how you go pro. For my relaunch of the guides, I spent a lot of time reading extremely ambitious business advice and then decided to get a real graphic artist to make me the most handsome cover I could possibly have. I’m excited about this thing. It will look good, it will inspire confidence in me and in other people.
I hope some of my points above resonated with you and gave you the energy and motivation to work hard on your product and get publishing. Don’t wait for a traditional publisher to tell you if you are ready – decide it yourself.
You’ve been reading a guest post by Kerstin Hammes
Kerstin Hammes is a native German speaker and has lived in the UK since 2003. She’s passionate about languages and has studied English, French, Italian, Latin, Spanish and Russian. Kerstin is the lady behind Fluent Language Tuition and teaches students of German, French and English as a Foreign Language as a tutor and coach. You can say hello to her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+