Friday, 28 September 2012

Yes, You Can Be an Author

I have been writing for years... more than twenty now, if truth be told. I began by using poetry to alleviate stress and that evolved into writing short pieces mainly for my own enjoyment. Over the years I amassed mounds of paper, then piles of floppy disks, piles of CDs and now piles of DVDs.

In 2004 I got my first domain and my writing went on line. I was still writing for my own enjoyment in the main, researching things that interested me and putting the findings up on the web. I began with Celtic stuff, translations and research on Celtic gods in the main.

This evolved into writing historic recipes and the Celtnet Recipes site was born. I kept on adding content and used the site to learn PHP and MySQL as well as honing some of my writing skills. But the main thing was to put up more and more content and to research things that interested me in more and more detail. Historic recipes evolved into wild food recipes then a specialization in African recipes and the site kept on growing.

The first year I made no money from the site, the second year I got a cheque every now and then from Google and the third year I was getting a cheque almost every month.

I had so much content that I did not know what to do with it. Then, a couple of years ago over a couple of beers I showed a friend a lot of what I had written and he came out and asked my: Why haven't you written a book?

To be honest, the thought had never really struck me. But that conversation planted the seed in my head. I dug out some of my early writings and went through them. Finally I decided to gather together a volume of poetry that I titled 'Memories of Myth and Man'. I put together a small print run and sold the copies to family and from my website.

All the copies sold! Of course, poetry will never make anyone rich, but it did bolster my confidence. I started putting together a volume of Christmas recipes. This I put together as an eBook and solid it for Amazon's kindle platform.

I was a real novice then and, basically, I sold nothing. This year I re-visited the entire scenario, wrote 7 other books and began selling them on Amazon for kindle, whilst actually putting effort into marketing them.

It does take a lot of effort to get a book from where it's written down on a page to where it can be published and marketed. It's not just the writing, it's the editing and re-editing then the typesetting and finally the publishing (it does not matter whether you are publishing an eBook or a physical book, the process is essentially the same.

I learnt a lot during this time, and here are some of the main lessons:

1. Start small. Whenever yo do something new there is always a steep learning curve. It's better to do the learning using a short book or pamphlet rather than a full volume. Shorter books are easier to complete and get published. You are less likely to get disheartened and you are more likely not to give up.

2. Enlist the help of people with experience. If you know anyone who has published before, enlist their help. This will save you a lot of heartache and mis-steps along the way. Otherwise you will have to find out all the traps and pitfalls for yourself.

3. Be prepared to deal with disappointment. When you put your heart into something only to hear, "We're not interested," it is easy to take it personally. But, you must continually remind yourself that this is part of the package deal in self-publishing. For every "yes" you receive at least five "no's" (or so it seems). Learning to humbly and graciously accept rejection, not let it get you down, and keep pressing forward is an absolute must in self-publishing, especially at the beginning.

4. The more you market, the more you sell. You can publish an excellent book, but unless people know it's available, you cannot expect many buyers. The good news is that the possibilities for marketing are endless. Check out all the books on marketing your local library offers and all the articles on marketing available on-line. These will give you some great starter ideas. Send out an e-mail to friends, family, and business associates announcing your book's publication date. You could even offer a limited-time pre-publication special. Join self-publishing groups and let them know about your book. Ask others to promote your book. Submit on-line press releases just before your book is published. Be pro-active and do not be afraid to try novel ideas!

Remember, even when you have finished your book, the journey is not over. If you do not market, you cannot sell.

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