I just received a holiday card from a friend whose husband started writing a book five years ago. They promise, in their holiday card, that it will be done in 2015. Promise. Isn’t that how many book projects go? You have a great idea, you think, “I am going to write a book!” and then you think about it, and perhaps start writing an outline and a chapter or two or three. But, it’s hard work and eats up your free time like a kid with a bag of chips. Now that my new book, “How to Move to Kona” is published ( with a REAL publisher!) I can look back now and offer some advice and insight into becoming a published author.
Ideas Came In the Form of Blog Comments
When I was offering Realtors advice on what to blog about, often times I would tell them to look in their sent items box. In that box were the answers to MANY real estate related questions. Content was already produced based on what people wanted to know. That is basically what happened when I started responding to comments on my 365Kona.com blog and my “365 Things to Do in Kona” Facebook page. I was getting questions regarding what it is like to live in Kona, how are the schools, what shipping company would I recommend, could I suggest a Realtor, etc. I also started looking at my analytics. When I posted anything about moving to the island, I was getting THOUSANDS of hits. I tested it out and kept writing more posts about aspects of moving to Kona. I had found my niche, my audience and my marketing channel. In November 2013, I decided I was going to start by writing an e-book like a few of my friends had done.
Getting an Editor
I had the e-book idea going until I met Beth Dunnington. I started to attend her Waimea Women’s Writer’s Workshops last spring when I needed some “writing therapy”. I wrote some pretty personal essays and shared them with the group. Beth said she saw talent. I told her about my idea for the book and she said she could help me with professional editing and coaching me through the process. Just like in the gym when I know coaching pushes me to perform, I knew having a professional helping me would get the project completed. I HIGHLY suggest getting someone on board to help you if you want to complete a book. She kept me on task, gave me suggestions, kept me writing and she edited and re-edited my work. My book has 20 chapters, more than I had envisioned when I thought about publishing it as an ebook. Beth kept giving suggestions for adding more to make the book more valuable to the readers.
Getting Funds To Keep Going
Hiring a professional editor is not free, especially for a good one like Beth. I was not sure how I would pay for Beth’s time and I wanted to have the funds to keep the project moving along quickly, so I started a GoFundMe campaign. In three months I raised over $1200 from friends and people who have been reading my blog for a few years. I am now busily fulfilling my “rewards” to them by sending autographed copies of my books to them. While I was campaigning, I was also marketing. Hundreds of people on Twitter and Facebook saw my determination and many of them were the first to buy my book when it went on pre-sale.
Getting a Publisher
My book was basically spawned from social media and Facebook, so it was fitting that I had met a publisher through Facebook who is based in Hilo, Hawaii. Beth was going to shop my book to publishers on the East Coast and said it could take a year to get someone to pick it up. I don’t think I would have started writing it if I had thought it would take that long! Nope, I was going to have it by Christmas! So, I reached out to Larry Czerwonka, owner of The Larry Czerwonka Company,who has created a publishing company that does not take upfront fees from their authors. A note from his company, “We created the ONLY publishing house in the world where the author has a lot of say and pays ZERO up front. And, the best part, gets more money each time the book sells than we do as the publisher. We have created a model like no other. We also take a flat fee, which also is unheard of, but makes it easier for everyone to know what we are making and not wondering of we got the split on the profits correct or not.”
They have to approve a concept for a book, but they get paid when the book is printed and starts to sell. Although I had hired a photographer, Kirk Shorte, to come with me to a beach and shoot the cover art work, in the end, it did not work for the thumbnail that the Larry Czerwonka Company envisioned that would help sell the book online. So, their graphic designer created the cover work using pictures I had taken. Then they sent me the first printed book. I was VERY thrilled to see all that hard work within two beautifully designed covers. We used that copy to make the final edits. Within a few weeks, I opened up my first box of books.
The publishers created a website for my book, HowToMoveToKona.com and published the book to Amazon. My job is to keep the fire of PR going to sell my books. I asked my local book store to carry the book and was rather shocked that they want 60% of the profits. (Welcome to the retail world of book sales). Kona Stories offered to let me speak to a large audience when they can fit me in, which could be in May. I thought I would approach Target, too, but if I am only going to make $5 or less on each book, I’d rather sell them myself or push them to the website. If you get picked up by a big publisher, they can give you an upfront payment for your book, but all the expenses will be taken out, meaning that you could lose 60% of your profits. I am working on getting the book out and about through Facebook groups like “Big Island Newbie’s Club” and other niche groups that have a natural tie in for my book. I started an email marketing campaign using AWeber from the email addresses I have been collecting through my website and Facebook. I also am approaching local real estate offices and will be doing a book signing soon. I have a marketing list of people to contact and will be utilizing Beth’s sphere of influence, as well. I am lucky that I have built a great sphere of friends who have reached out to their own sphere to promote the book by posting photos of themselves with my book on Facebook and suggesting it to their followers on Twitter. I am also asking for recommendations on Amazon.
Creating, editing, publishing and promoting a book is a jig saw puzzle, but you can do it with the right people helping you. Of course, I put my effort in 4 years ago by creating a blog, Facebook page, etc. because I work in social media marketing. My advice is if you have an idea for your book, start the digital marketing footprint now! Get a domain name, start a blog, create a business page on Facebook, and get your writing style out there- it all helps!
I am hoping that my insights and advice will help to jump start your dream of becoming a published author. I am proud of my friend whose husband has put a goal out for 2015 to complete his book. You have to have a goal before you can accomplish anything, so if you want to share your story, your wisdom or advice, this may be the year to do it. Good luck!
Special Mahalos to my friends who took photos of themselves when they got my book in the mail and posted them on Facebook, bought my book and took a photo with me, and invested in me in the beginning. I am beyond grateful!
Julie, I’m so happy for you! Congrats on making it in Amazon!