It’s been said that everyone has a book inside of them somewhere. And while this may be true, after self-publishing my first book, I now understand why most of those books never make it into the world! Turns out writing, publishing, and marketing a book is hard work, y’all. Who would have thought? 🙂
And yet looking back on my experience producing my first book, I can honestly say it is worth the effort. The feeling of seeing my book shoot to number five on the Amazon Bestseller List in its category, of seeing picture of women in the CGC community holding a copy in their hands… it’s not something I will ever forget.
In the week since the launch, many of you have reached out to me with questions about the process of self-publishing. What is the timeline? Costs? Is it worth the investment? There are no simple answers to any of these questions so instead of even trying to simplify the experience, I’ve written arguably one of the most epic blog posts in CGC history.
This three-part monster will take you behind the scenes of how I wrote, published, and marketed an Amazon Best Selling book in less than 90 days. I don’t hold anything back. In this blog post series, I’ll be sharing every detail including production decisions, costs, marketing strategies, number of books sold, income, err’thang! Let’s get started!
Three good reasons to write a book (even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer”
Not everyone who starts a blog has the intention to eventually write a book. And that’s ok! I definitely didn’t start Colored Girl Confidential thinking that my words would one day be chillin on the shelf next to some of my favorite authors.
Shoot, I have enough trouble keeping my bank account safe from my occasional Kindle spending sprees without imagining that my own name would one day grace the pages of my favorite search engine. (Because, duh. Every time I run a search on Amazon I almost always end up buying something. Take that, Google.)
Still, after maintaining the blog for almost three years, I realized that turning the CGC blog into a book made a lot of sense for me, for three main reasons.
1. Writing a book is a great way to build credibility within your niche. There’s nothing like successfully publishing a book to help you build visibility within your area of expertise. Whether it’s a novel, a manifesto, or a how-to, being able to say that you’re a published author says to people that you take pride in your ideas and expertise, and you’re serious about sharing them with the world.
2. Writing a book is a great way to find “your people.” In my tribe-building course, I write a lot about finding people who believe what you believe (regarding your chosen topic). These are your people. They love hearing what you have to say and they love the way that YOU say it. But not everyone reads blogs; not everyone prefers to consume information that way. Writing a book is a great way of introducing yourself to a completely different audience.
3. If I ever decided to retire the CGC blog, a book is one way that the CGC legacy can continue to live on. I know that I don’t want to write on CGC forever. There will come a time when I’m ready to move on to new and exciting challenges, and when that time comes, I wanted there to be something left of the community I’ve worked so hard to create.
ACTION ITEM: List out your goals for publishing a book. What do you hope to accomplish and how will publishing a book help you with this? Be as specific as possible in order to determine whether a writing a book is worth the time, effort, and expense.
Want to write a book? Start a blog first.
The publishing industry has changed drastically over the last few years. These days, authors are expected to already have a following in order to be able to successfully launch and market a book.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you NEED a blog in order to be a successful author, I do think that a blog (or some other new media presence like a podcast, YouTube channel, or even incredibly active social media page), gives you an advantage. In my case, the CGC blog served three distinct purposes:
1. As a way to build an audience. Part of the reason my book was able to sell enough copies on launch day to hit the bestseller list in it’s category was because I’ve spent years building an audience of several thousand women who already love my work. And when my book came out, they were eager to grab a copy.
2. As market research. Cultivating an independent media presence is also a great way to get inside the minds of your target market. You get a sense of what they care about, what excites them, what type of content they enjoy most. All this helps you to put together the best book possible.
3. As content inspiration. Your blog can also serve as content inspiration and in some cases, actual content for your book. In the case of CGC, most of the content was pulled directly from blog posts I’ve written over the years. By publishing my book content as blog posts first, I was able to not only get a sense of what resonates most with my target audience but through the comments and responses, gained valuable feedback that allowed me to make my content even more powerful.
ACTION ITEM: If you already have an online presence, list out some of the ways your website or social media profiles can work to your advantage once you are ready to write/publish your book. What specific steps should you be taking now so that you are better prepared when the time comes?
Traditional vs. Self Publishing
Once you’ve decided to write a book (Whoot! Gon’head with your bad self!), the next step is figuring out how you’re going to publish it. Well, technically, the next step is actually WRITING the book. But the step after THAT is figuring out how you’re going to publish it.
You have two main choices. You can either pitch your book to a traditional publisher or you can publish your book yourself. There are pros and cons to each approach. For a more detailed look at traditional vs. self publishing, check out any of the following articles:
- Traditional vs. Self Publishing: What’s The Best Route For Entrepreneurs
- Self Publish Or Not? Advice From A Traditional Publisher
- Self Publish or Perish (Why I Made The Leap To Indie Publishing)
Here’s what my pros and cons lists looked like, however:
- Pros: Seen as more prestigious; wider distribution (including to libraries and brick and mortar bookstores); they cover all publishing costs and sometimes provide a cash advance against future sales
- Cons: Grueling pitch process (may be rejected from many different publishers before being accepted by one); extremely long timeline (9-18 months from beginning to end of the process); less creative control
- Pros: Full creative control; work at your own pace – as quickly or as slowly as you like; don’t need to wait on anyone else’s approval or permission before publishing
- Cons: You’re responsible for all expenses; can be challenging to get brick and mortar distribution; some stigma still attached to self-publishing
When it came to publishing the CGC book, my two biggest priorities were creative control and expediency. Once I created my list of pros and cons, it was clear to me that self-publishing was the option that best aligned with my particular goals.
That being said, the hardest thing for me to overcome while making this decision was my perceived stigma around self-publishing. To me, it seemed like a self-published book was the equivalent to telling the world, “NOBODY WANTS TO PUBLISH MY BOOK AND NOW I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF. BECAUSE I’M LAME. YOU HEAR THAT, WORLD? I AM LAAAAAAAAAME.”
(Yea, yea. My inner critic tends to go a bit overboard at times. So sue me.)
After talking to my mentor, however, I realized how hypocritical it was for me to hold this view. After all, the founding of the Colored Girl Confidential blog was predicated on the idea that women of color should have complete control of their own stories and voices, and that we don’t need mainstream approval or permission in order to share our truths.
Once I realized that it was my own fears of my work not being good enough and that this was causing me to obsess over my perceived self-publishing stigma, I knew what I had to do. I knew that I couldn’t let fear or insecurities stand in my way of making the choice that was best for me, my work, and the CGC community. Self-publishing was the way to go!
ACTION ITEM: What are your biggest goals and priorities what it comes to publishing you book? Would you like more control? Does timeline matter? Would you prefer to have someone else foot the bill? Decide on your first and second most important priorities. Which publishing process is most in line with your personal priorities?
COMING UP NEXT:
- Part II: Understanding the self-publishing process, costs, and timeline
- Part III: Creating a book launch and marketing strategy that works
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