"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart
"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf
Friday, January 8, 2010
E-publishing Done Right!
Victoria Wescott wrote a fabulous book called Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians. which she published electronically. I met Victoria on Marsha Moore’s blog and wanted to do an interview because I was fascinated by the publishing process she used and wanted to know more about how that worked. I have read part of her Survival Guide; but I had to stop before I packed my bags and rushed off to teach in London. I was impressed by the thoroughness of the book, by the ease in reading and the fine editing. Basically an excellent job, well done, Victoria! Now, if you don’t mind, a few questions....
Did you submit this manuscript to any publishers before going electronic?
No, I didn’t. I thought that the market would be too small, since it’s specifically for teachers who want to work in London, England, plus I wanted it to be available immediately. I was keen to just get the material out there to help all those teachers trying to do their research into teaching in London.
What was the process involved once you chose this format?
It’s a fairly simple process with the right help. It’s a long story, so I will try to keep it short.I am fortunate in that I have a sister who is a professional screenwriter and a cousin who is a designer, so we joined forces and did the project together. We each had one week.I wrote the book in 7 days, which was surprisingly not that tough. I just sat down and wrote everything I know about teaching in London, from 3 years of teaching there myself as well as recruiting teachers.
My sister edited the book in 7 days, and made it into something people would want to read, and finally my cousin designed the ebook and made it the professional file it is today.
The last stage is probably the hardest and the most expensive if you want your ebook to look and feel professional. My cousin also designed the website guidetoteachinginlondon.com and had a colleague of hers launch it online. The ebook was up within a few weeks.
You must be happy with the finished product, it looks great. Are you happy with how the company has treated you and your book?
I should have clarified – I didn’t go through a company, but did it all on my own and with the family. So, there was no company involved at all. It’s really just a matter of deciding if you want to write an ebook, edit it, publish as a PDF file and then launch a website on your own, or hire designers & editors. And with my sister and cousin and I, how could I not be happy? I wish we had more sales, as we split the profit amongst the 3 of us, but I also know I should do more with marketing. Time, time, where is the time?
They say an author has to spend more time in marketing than in writing the book itself, and in your case that would definitely be true. Seven days from start to finish, that's amazing!
Isn’t it routine to pay an editor and designer for their work rather than split royalties with them? Why did you do it this way?
Yes – it’s a bit unusual to split the royalties between the editor and the designer. The other way would have been to pay each of them for their services, which would have been costly no doubt. So, this way, the money we earn is split amongst us as we earn it.
Did you research other forms of self-publishing? Why did you choose electronic?
I did. I looked into publishing with Lulu, which is a site where you can submit your ebook and people can purchase it as an electronic file or as a paperback, or even a hardcover. It looked good, but I decided to test it out as a customer to see how their books look & feel and how long they take to arrive.
Smart move, Victoria. How did that go?
It arrived about 2 months later, and that just didn’t sit well with me. My customers need the information much faster than that. The look was okay, but not great. Also, teachers who are looking for this information are across the country, and often abroad already. So I needed a way where they could get the book quickly, and I doubted whether a publisher would pick it up as quickly as I wanted. So, electronic made the most sense.
I know that self-publishing can run into thousands of dollars. Is e-publishing a cheaper way to go?Why is it that so many self-publishers don't seem to understand this? If you're going to take the trouble to write a book, you better spend the time to get it edited and designed to measure up to the professionals. And that's what your book does.
I also read Joe Vitale’s Ebook “How to Write and Publish an Ebook in as Little as 7 Days” (www.7dayebook.com) which became the inspiration for our own 7 day project. I recommend this book to anyone who is really starting out, but I will say that it needs some serious editing! It’s repetitive, and design-wise, I personally think it’s a nightmare to look at. Otherwise, the information provided is very useful.
Your demographic is a fairly small niche, but I would think any teacher, even one in the US, would be interested in this. What kind of marketing and promotion have you done?
Not nearly enough! I write two blogs about teaching & moving to the UK, and I think most people find the book that way. I also do presentations at universities for new teachers across Canada, and would like to push this more in the States. I pay about $15/month for the website to be up, and had some disks made with the PDF file, so that cost about $50 plus the cost of printing the labels (pennies really).
What about rights? For instance, you sent me a pdf. file of your book and I immediately thought of two teachers in the US who might be interested in looking at it. Would it be cheating for me to email it to them? My guess is yes, so I won’t do it, but what’s to keep people from unauthorized “sharing?”
Yes – this is an issue, and one that might make me seem a bit naïve. I know people might give it to others, and have to admit that I have also done this with other ebooks I have purchased.
I think the number of people who will pay for the ebook will outnumber those that get it from a friend. Also, since I own Classroom Canada, a teaching agency that sends teachers to work in London, I get teachers who apply after reading the ebook. By doing their research they are better quality candidates, so in the end my company profits.
Joe Vitale pushes affiliate marketing in his ebook, which means that he profits from the links that readers click on in the ebook. I didn’t really do this, but could have and would make money by whoever reads it, regardless of whether they paid for it or not. That seems a bit “salesy” to me, who am I to judge?
E-publishing is in its infancy stages right now. Do you think it’s better for an author and/or publisher to wait until it’s more widespread, or to get in now while it is new?
Good question. I think it really depends on what you are writing and who your market is. If it’s a niche market like mine, and you doubt that a publisher would pick it up because of that, then yes. Go for it.
But if your market is larger, I would advise going with a traditional publisher. Publishers have a vast array of skills and networks that you simply won’t have. Also, I’d like to see more publishers of ebooks out there for niche markets like mine. If I didn’t have my sister to edit and my cousin to design it, I’m not sure my ebook would be the success that it is today. A publisher could have really helped in the process, particularly with marketing & sales.
What advice would you give to anyone who might be considering this format for their manuscript?
Edit, edit, edit! Make your ebook a professional product that you would pay money for. Also, giving a free chapter is a great way to encourage readers to purchase your ebook if they’re not sure.
I also 100% guarantee my ebook, and am pleased to say that no one has ever asked for their money back. I would suggest you offer this as well, and don’t worry that people will all ask for refunds. If they do, you should look at what you’re offering & rethink your ideas.
What are you writing now? Do you have plans to publish again electronically?
Technically, I am writing the American edition of the Guide to Teaching in London, but to be honest it’s not a top priority as I’m in my busy season for just recruiting teachers to London with Classroom Canada. I will publish it electronically again I’m sure.
I also just submitted the first one to a publisher. After all this time, I thought I might try my luck and see if an education-specific publisher wants to offer it in paperback form. It’s worth a shot right? I was inspired by Marsha Moore and thought I should just get over my own personal fears of rejection and at least give a publisher a chance to decide for themselves.
Of course! Fear of rejection has kept many a writer from publication. How can interested followers get in touch with you, or order your book?
Here are my websites and blogs:
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook – www.guidetoteachinginlondon.com
You can download a free chapter here: http://www.guidetoteachinginlondon.com/free_chapter.html
Classroom Canada and Classroom America – www.classroomcanada.com
Classroom Canada Blog – www.classroomcanada.blogspot.com
Canadians & Americans in the UK – http://canadiansintheuk.wordpress.com
Thank you for all this great information, Victoria! It really helped me understand e-publishing a lot better. I appreciate your willingness to share your expertise, and good luck with your book.
Thanks so much for this interview! It was fun to do, and I hope it helps others out there understand the process more. Feel free to leave me questions or comments here and I’ll try to pop by and answer them.
Wonderful! I'll leave this post up for awhile to give everyone plenty of time to ask Victoria questions.