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"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 na├»ve. 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.

19 comments:

  1. Great interview. I liked Victoria's suggestion for authors to e-publish when there's a small niche market but go with traditional publishers when the market is larger. I can see the wisdom in this.

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  2. Do you need an isbn number for a book that is strictly electronic?

    And do I have the option to order the physical book?

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  3. Hi L.A. and M.,
    Thanks for your comments! For the Isbn number, no, you don't need one for an ebook, although if you publish with a traditional publisher then yes, you will get one.

    In the case of the Guide to Teaching in London, no there is no physical book. Yet. I could have had some made with iUniverse or Lulu, which are companies that will help authors self-publish, but I wasn't pleased with the costs of iUniverse, nor the length of time for the delivery with Lulu. So, for now, readers have to purchase it as an ebook.

    But I do hope to have it published one day as a physical book. Fingers crossed,
    Victoria

    PS) Keep those questions & comments coming. Thanks so much!

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  4. Victoria, I think you can publish POD through Amazon without having to use one of the vanity presses such as Lulu. If you go to Amazon Advantage, you can find out about all the options they offer to small presses and self-publishers. That way you could offer hard copies through their POD program for a minimal set up fee. And you don't have to have iUniverse or Lulu listed on your book as the publisher....the instant kiss of death imho.

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  5. Great interview, Karen and Victoria! Really enjoyed reading it. As a former Canadian teacher in the UK, I was really impressed with Victoria's product, too.

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  6. Ah, yes - good point Karen! Hmmm....should I do this do you think? It's never really been an issue in the past as far as I know, but I have had a few people say they would like a paperback version.

    And Marsha, thanks for introducing us. :-)
    Victoria

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  7. I'm thrilled to discover this interesting blog. Love the interview too, thanks.

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  8. Hi - I'm visiting from Nicola's blog. This was a really interesting interview. It's great to see people use new publishing models when they are sure it's right for them and have researched it. I wish Victoria all the best with her company and the search for a paperback publisher!

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  9. Hi Debs and Elen. (Elen you've got a great last name if you write for kids lol) Thanks for visiting my blog! I am following yours now, Deb, and I'll go visit Elen now too.

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  10. Hi Karen, great post!
    You still don't hear much about e-books or how to publish them, so this was a really interesting insight into the process. Seems like a much better alternative to self-publishing in hard copy, or using vanity press.

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  11. Hi Karen -

    Thanks very much for your comment! I've followed you back; I'd love to read another "writer's journey" story :)

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  12. Welcome to all the visitors new to my blog. and Victoria, while you are still here, I have another question for you, but it might be too sensitive so you don't need to answer if you don't want to.

    About profits and pricing. Since e books don't have printing costs, they are typically priced lower. What is your book priced and what do you figure your profit percentage is on it? And how did you determine the price?

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  13. Hi Karen

    Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog yesterday - and for being my first ever follower yay! Because of this I'm more inspired to continue with it as I'd been thinking that it would never get any followers so what's the point BUT you've restored my faith!

    I am so glad I've found your blog - there is some really useful information here so no doubt I'll be back.

    Thanks
    Katie x

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  14. Hi Karen
    Wow - look at all these visitors! I love blog parties.

    So, for your question about the profits. Yes, often ebooks are priced lower, but I've also seen them priced much higher as well. I think I paid $50 for Joe Vitale's ebook about how to write an ebook. I've paid more for other ebooks as well. The thinking seems to be that you determine the price, and charge what people will pay.

    Mine is $29.95, which I know is high for a 110 page book, but like I said, the profits are split between the designer, editor and myself. We pay $15/month for the website, and then split the profits so I get 50%, the editor & designer each get 25%.

    I also sell the ebook at presentations that I do, so reduce the price there to $20 even for the students. I've never had anyone complain about the price, so we'll keep it as is for now.

    Honestly, it's not so much a money-making thing - the profits are minimal. I've entered a contest for ebook publishing so if I win, then I'll get $3000 (woohoo! Fingers crossed people...fingers crossed). That's where the money is I think.

    I don't know how authors make a good living unless they're bestsellers. You are all amazing, dedicated, incredible people and I love what you do every day.

    Thanks for hosting me here Karen. It's been a blast!

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  15. Victoria, I love how open and clear you've been about the process and all of it. I have learned so much about e publishing from this interview! Thanks so much! Best of luck with the contest.

    P.S. I know what you mean about price. Farm Girl was priced $15.95 for a 180 page soft-cover book due to the high quality paper, and the 4-color printing process used to make the photography look good. I figured people would whine about the price. What I learned is that if they want your book, they don't even notice the price. And if they don't they'll use price as an excuse along with anything else.

    But $50 for the Joe Vitale ebook? WOW!! Just goes to show the market is there, people are wanting to learn about it and how to do it. Hey, maybe you should write a how-to one!!?? And charge $45!!

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  16. HA! Love that idea Karen. Maybe I will...

    I'm also looking at taking all of the information in my 2nd blog (http://canadiansintheuk.wordpress.com) and getting it either published or just doing an ebook again. The comments from my readers is that there isn't one resource out there that helps Canadians & Americans understand all that's involved in moving to the UK so...there's a market. Again, a small niche market, and a non-fiction book, but one that's fairly easy for me to do. I've already written all the posts, so I can compile them into a book fairly easily.

    What do you think? Should I write it as an ebook or try for a publisher this time?

    Thanks for all your comments & questions! I love this kind of thing.

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  17. Since you are already getting your market cornered, and they are buying the ebook, why not just do another e book? Also, in case you want to write your own how -to epublishing book, another title on your resume adds to your authority.

    You might approach a publisher about doing one or both of them POD, so that your readers have the option of purchasing it in book form off Amazon. (I have an in with Wido, in case you want to approach them...submissions@widopublishing.com)

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  18. Dear Karen,

    This is third time lucky as no comments have registered. Arggh. But wanted to say a) what a fab post and b) a big thank you for stopping by and really kicking things off for me by commenting and becoming a follower. Bless you. It made my heart glow. I will make sure my next post is up to standard! xxxx

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  19. Anyone experience anything about the easy google profit kit? I discovered a lot of advertisements around it. I also found a site that is supposedly a review of the program, but the whole thing seems kind of sketchy to me. However, the cost is low so I’m going to go ahead and try it out, unless any of you have experience with this system first hand

    www.onlineuniversalwork.com

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