by Karen McCann (@EnjoyLvngAbroad)
I met Karen and her husband Rich when they enrolled in my Self-Publishing Roadmap video training course last year. I’ve followed their progress with interest, and attended their book launch party, which was held right here in San Rafael a few weeks ago. I asked Karen how she came to be a self-publisher, and here’s her report.
Two years ago, after vaguely mulling over the subject for ages, I woke up one day with a clear vision of how I could write a fresh book about my experiences as an American living in Seville, Spain. I sat down and began pounding out a rough first draft, and after three months I had a 50,000-word manuscript sitting on my desk.
It was a misshapen, awkward, teenage version of itself, but the bones and essential personality were there, and with sufficient time and nurturing, I realized it would eventually mature into the book I wanted to send out into the world.
It was at that point I began to think seriously about how to go about publishing it.
My husband, Rich, and I began talking to the few authors and publishing people we knew, and the response was universal: forget about traditional publishing houses.
Fine with me; I had already gone that route in the 90s. A publishing firm paid me a small advance on a book about hospitals; when the hardback came out, their entire marketing strategy consisted of listing it in a few obscure industry publications. I paid for my own publicity campaign, and in the end, sold about 2500 copies. I lost money on the book itself, although it paid off handsomely in consulting assignments for years to come.
I preferred the idea of self-publishing, but I had only the haziest idea how to go about formatting, production, marketing, publicity, distribution, etc.
Rich and I spent countless hours scouring the Internet, poring over hundreds of articles that offered detailed, often conflicting advice. But we just couldn’t seem to get our arms around the subject. There was simply too much information out there.
One day I ran across some articles by Joel Friedlander and when I checked out his website, I learned that he was just about to launch his training course, The Self-Publishing Roadmap.
Rich and I signed up, and it was one of the best moves we ever made. Slowly, with Joel’s detailed information seeping into our brains, we began to make sense of the vast and complex world of self-publishing.
We learned about print-on-demand technology, which makes it easy and cheap to print books one at a time, as they are ordered, eliminating hefty, up-front printing costs. Where I earned less than a dollar a copy on my first book, selling my 213-page paperback on Amazon for $13.95, I would make $4.74 a copy, and even more on Kindle and other e-reader editions.
Heading to Editing
As a professional writer and editor, I figured I could skip hiring anyone to help with editing, but Joel convinced me that everyone needs a fresh, professional review. From among those he recommended, I chose Kathy Carter, and she did a terrific job.
In her clear, tactful way, she pointed out where the structure needed shoring up, where my amusing digressions went confusingly far afield, and where I needed deeper descriptions of how I was feeling as adventures unfolded. It cost several thousand dollars and was, as Joel had predicted, some of the best money I spent. Kathy made sure my book has the same professional quality as those coming out of a “real” publisher.
Another great piece of advice was to start a social media campaign six months before the pub date. I needed to build a following so that someone out there would be listening when I announced the book was out.
Using Weebly’s free software, I created a website and then a blog. I dusted off my little-used Facebook page but was still unsure how to use it until I found Chris Farrell’s great, low-cost ($39/month) course on Facebook. I launched a Twitter campaign and began connecting with other authors and travel writers. I started commenting on other blogs, and pretty soon I was getting requests to do guest blogs (like this one).
Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad came out last month. It has received 13 five-star reviews on Amazon.com, where it’s ranked #75 in travel books about Spain.
I’ve been invited to speak to book clubs and travel groups, and have appeared in dozens of print, Internet and radio media outlets in the US and Europe. Early sales figures are promising but too preliminary to tell us much. Whatever success the book enjoys, I know I owe a large part of it to the good advice I got, and the support of many others along the way.
Karen McCann, an award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger, has been living in Seville, Spain, since 2004. Wanderlust has taken her to more than thirty countries, including many developing or post-war nations where she and her husband volunteer as consultants to struggling microenterprises. Her new book is Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad, which has been called “warm, inviting, immediately charming, and constantly entertaining,” and “perhaps the best book about travel that I have ever read.”