Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: In this show, we catch up with Ben Roberts and discover how he’s been doing with his book-writing journey and whether he is going to be chosen the one and hit the deadline date, unlike some of the other people who may not even complete the process the way things are going. So now over to the interview.
Tim Lewis: Hi, Ben. Welcome to the show again.
Ben Roberts: Hi, Tim. Thanks so much for having me back.
Tim Lewis: I know that you have made quite considerable progress on your book, so you can bring everybody up to date with where you are and what you’re looking to do next on your book?
Ben Roberts: Yes. So I’m in the difficult stage now, the stage that I hate most. The book is all drafted. It’s gone through a round of copy editing. I collected all the case studies. I basically sent out a few copies of the initial draught out to a few people that I like, know, and respect. So I’m hoping to get some feedback through from them about sort of anything missing in the content. Anything that sort of stands out, if there’s any threads or strands that they think actually I should delve a bit deeper on. Basically, when I came back from the copy editor, I rewrote a chapter and a half because of the feedback that was there, and that worked out amazingly well. So now I’m at the stage where once I get this feedback back, I’m then gonna start designing it all and actually putting it into a tool that’s gonna help me design it. Then publish after that.
Tim Lewis: Okay, so you’re waiting for feedback and your case studies and things to come back as well.
Ben Roberts: The case studies are all back now, and I’ve written them up I just need to basically to, I need to finish up I think about two left to write up, but they’re all pretty much bank in now. I need to just then insert them into that draught.
Tim Lewis: So how long do you reckon before you get to the point where you’ve got all the feedback you think you’re gonna…You’ve incorporated that feedback in. You’ve put the case studies in, and you have got a document for formatting. What time-frame are you looking for for that?
Ben Roberts: Well, I think we are gonna slightly overshoot the e-book date that we initially set, but I’m not going to be far off it at all. I think it may overshoot by a week or so. My own fault because I got so many other things happening, and it was like I lost track of the book for a week, and it actually puts you back almost a week and a half. So yeah. SO I reckon once I get everything back, I’ll be looking at two and a half, three weeks if everyone can come back with some ideas by the end of this month, I’ve then got a round of proofreading. I’ll be able to start putting into the, doing all the design work while that’s going on ’cause the proofreading is just sort of little touch ups here and there. Yeah, I reckon by the end of February it should all be good to go. So I reckon we are gonna be delayed probably by a week or so, which is annoying, but I’m not…I think of this like a project, and I don’t know of a project that’s ever run on time. SO I’m not overly worried.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, well, I mean, I did loads of stuff with running projects when I was in the old corporate world in IT, and the only projects that run to time are ones where people have done the same thing, more or less completely the same thing before a couple of times. So it’s like a… If you’re a company that builds bridges and you build the same bridge on every river you do, then by the time you get to building the fiftieth bridge, you can probably say within a day or two when you’re gonna get it done. But given that this is your first book and your first book project, I think a week or two’s delay is not the end of the world. Though, alright, you were the best hope for one of the se people actually getting the project done on time.
Ben Roberts: Oh, God. I can’t believe, you should have never pinned that on me, Tim, but-
Tim Lewis: You were the last hope! You were the Anakin Skywalker that’s gonna restore balance to the podcast.
Ben Roberts: You know how well the story of Anakin Skywalker ended up.
Tim Lewis: Yeah.
Ben Roberts: It’s not inconceivable that actually that it could be done, but I’m not pinning all my hopes on being able to do it in time.
Tim Lewis: Nah. Well, you shouldn’t. Until you set up all your marketing and everything like that for a particular period of time, which I always forget to do ’cause I’m always too worried about the deadline, the deadline doesn’t matter. The deadline is something to aim for.
Ben Roberts: Yeah.
Tim Lewis: The important thing is to get the project done, and you probably do need a deadline even if you do hit-miss it because, if you say, “Well, I’ll get it finished some point.” It could be like mid-March when it comes up, you don’t do it, and then it’s like April, and then you kind of, the longer you leave things, the harder it is to come back to them ’cause you forget how to do things a lot of the time as well. So, yeah. I think it’s, it’s not the end of the world that you’re gonna miss the deadline potentially, but it was good to have it. The deadline was my birthday, so now-
Ben Roberts: Yes, it was. Yeah.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Well, it’s still my birthday, so it’s not changed.
Ben Roberts: We’ll call it like a birthday, or we’ll give it like a birthday month, so that way I don’t feel too bad.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, exactly. So let’s talk about marketing then I know you’ve got quite…How many case studies have you got in your book from various people?
Ben Roberts: Ten.
Tim Lewis: Okay.
Ben Roberts: Maybe, about, yeah, I think it was ten.
Tim Lewis: So when you get nearer to the time when you have a solid idea, a really solid idea of when your book will be finished you probably want to be looking to sometime beforehand, get in touch with all of those people, and say, “I want you to be helping me promote the book on these days, on the Amazon store,” or, even better, if you can get some sort of an email list or some sort of notification, even like a messenger bot or Facebook page with a messenger bot on it – and get those people to get their followers or people who are interested in reading the book to sign up to that email or messenger bot or whatever. So that you’ve got some way of ensuring you’re gonna get a whole load of purchases for your book on Amazon around that time, ideally in the US.
Ben Roberts: Mmm.
Tim Lewis: Of the UK. I mean, US or UK can work. That’s the best way. I had most success with my first ever book because I got people…People bought it because they knew me, and it was my first book, and I was also, it was easy to use Facebook advertising and things in those days to push into chance. SO even though, in many ways, my first book I wrote, my first time-travel time was the first book I’ve ever written by a long way. It still sells, well its three now, but it still sells the series. Because it had chart exposure, like years ago, it was like number 10 in the UK Amazon chart. For time-travel, that is, not a whole thing. So, I would be looking in your case, to get, like, the people quoted in your book, to try and get them to kind of rustle up a bit of interest. You’re gonna have to do, get your own tribe of people interested, and then try and focus it within a few days.
Ben Roberts: Yes.
Tim Lewis: And what they say, which sounds true, is you don’t want one big spike. What you want is, kind of, maybe like a quarter of the people to buy it on the first day, and then half the people to buy it in the next day, and a quarter on the third day. Something like that, so that it doesn’t look like you’ve just got an enormous spike, ’cause Amazon will probably discount that as being like some sort of you’re trying to game it or something. Which you are, but it’s like, you want it so it looks like it’s building up in interest, and then it should get into a chart somewhere, like the UK, like the US social media chart or whatever category you in. And that should drive more sales. So this is kind of the idea from how to try and get your book to have success on Amazon. I mean you’ve got the issue that you got all the crowdfunding people are already gonna have a copy of the book, because they sponsored you on the crowdfunding side.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, but I guess also from that though, I guess, the way I look at it is whereas also then have a mass of people who are already able to help push, ’cause they’re already invested in the project, so actually, they feel like actually they can help share the message even further because they’ve already invested in it. So I guess, although the Amazon stuff itself lost out on the initial orders, actually, potentially, because I’ve already got those people there. Then it actually could make a difference in terms of sharing because I know they’re gonna get the book straight away, they get the book on time, so actually they can help generate that extra spike in activity.
Tim Lewis: Well one thing that they could help, which is always useful for books, is writing reviews. To write a review of a book on Amazon, if you’ve spent 50 pound or 50 dollars within Amazon, even if you haven’t purchased a book on Amazon. So I need to push for people who’ve, I’ve given my social media networking book to, to write Amazon reviews. Because, it makes so much difference on Amazon, the way that Amazon listings are set up, the number of reviews and the star count makes a big difference. There’s also quite a lot of book promotion sites that won’t let you use them unless you’ve got a certain number of reviews. So, that is something where your crowdfunding people could potentially, and you could be like, tapping them up and say, “Please write a review on Amazon” maybe show them a little video or something about how to do it. So that’s where they could come in useful for longer term sales.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, no, I like that idea a lot because obviously, you said reviews actually still make a huge, huge difference in terms of especially the long term, as well. The short term, yes, but over the long term in terms of actually getting that credibility and I’m seeing Amazon’s one they’ve got actually a quite review system that isn’t as easy to game as other people’s, because obviously you almost have to have the book and stuff, so it’s interesting. I think it’s definitely a good way to go about it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I think we’ve got this. Weren’t you going to write a book about reviews at one point, or is that some sort of memory I have, like-
Ben Roberts: No, I did, I wrote about 20,000 for it. I wrote 20,000 words for it and I, not lost interest in it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted. It started becoming burdensome and it started, I started not enjoying the process of writing it, so although I still love, and I hugely value the topic. I don’t, it wasn’t the right…It’s a book I want to write, but it wasn’t the right time for me then, so-
Tim Lewis: Yeah, okay. ‘Cause I remember you interviewing me for it. I think that’s the reason, and I was saying the point in that podcast, that the bizarre thing about podcasts is I can care less about podcast reviews on the show, I only get, I actually got quite a lot to begin with. I’ve got a relatively high number, well at least in the UK from a podcast, but nobody looks at podcast reviews. Honestly, I’ve never…Well maybe the odd time, if I’ve, if I’m searching for a particular subject, but it’s so easy to just listen to a show to find out whether you like it, for a podcast, but reviews don’t matter. But for books, possible exception of free books, reviews do matter because people have go to spend, they’ve got to go on the blurb and the reviews and everything and workout whether they want to buy it. So, that’s why reviews matter for books.
Ben Roberts: Hmm, good to know. I cannot agree more, and my little cat has just come to say hello, as well. Hoping you might not be able to hear him purring in the microphone.
Tim Lewis: No, no he’s, it’s amazingly quiet at the moment. We did have a baby…I did have a Jenn Herman’s baby crying years and years ago on the show. Which I, I think I cut out and put as bonus material, but nobody ever listened to the bonus material.
Tim Lewis: Anyway, so, we talked about marketing and we talked about your…I would say in terms your release date. It’s better to have a firm date that is late, than to rush to meet the 18th of February 1, which sounds like you’ve almost said you’re not gonna do that.
Tim Lewis: You probably also, lets have a look at time in your diary, and just check that you’re, those few days after you book releases that you’re not doing anything too, like spectacularly, time consuming. Because you will be sitting there, I mean it’s understandably sitting on your Amazon dashboard, clicking refresh all the time to see how many sales you get. ‘Cause that’s what people do on their first book release. My one, I’m like yeah, whatever, I’ll do it, and it’s like, oh, I sold two copies, oh yeah, great. Yeah, so that you can, and when people ask questions on social media about your book, or if something, like some scheduled thing that you set up fails to work, then you can fix it.
Tim Lewis: So I would look in your schedule to make sure that you’re not on holiday, and sort of, somewhere with no cell coverage or something, the day after you release your book.
Ben Roberts: Definitely don’t plan on doing that.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. There will be things like, once your book is published, this is something actually I forgot to, I had a whole episode with Holly Chessman when I was talking about, she just had a book done and she wanted to know the in steps and this is something I forgot about, because I forgot about in my book, and it got me into so much trouble, is that you know the social media site Goodreads.
Ben Roberts: Yes.
Tim Lewis: You should, well you could probably, I don’t know if you could do it now, you might be able to do it now, but setup a author profile on there and add your book in…Well you can only add the book in when you’ve actually created it, but-
Ben Roberts: Is that a bit like working with Amazon, though, can you just put a draught in, or do you have to put in the actual full completed book.
Tim Lewis: You have to put in the full complete book. I don’t think you can do pre-orders on, well, it’s not, you don’t actually buy on Goodreads it’s a review site. My problem is that they let you, if you review a book on Goodreads and it doesn’t exist in the system, they let the customers add it in. And somebody added in my book, and assigned it to the wrong Tim Lewis. So this pastor in Oklahoma was down as the author of my book, and it took me so…Even now I’ve not got it properly corrected, it says Timothy Michael Lewis, which is my fiction author name, is for my social media networking book. I tried so hard. So, that’s something that you could put down to do after your book is published. It’s those kind of admin things, there’s also things like you can set up office central. I think this is something else I need to do actually…On Amazon, I mean it’s a bit moot when you’ve only got one book, but you can setup an author page, so that somebody clicks on your name, Ben Roberts, under your thing it will take you to this page with your photo and everything, it will have like, it can have a link to your marketing buzzwords sites and all the rest of it.
Tim Lewis: So that’s something else to consider doing, after you get the book done. So there are are a lot of kind of things to do afterwards, so-
Ben Roberts: Yeah, but, I’ve got like a…So those Goodreads ideas, have all got mic’d, so I’m basically making notes as we go through, as I should be, and it’s like, so I’ve got all these different parts of the plan, so I’ve obviously got podcasts, I’ve actually, so, although in between work today, I’ve actually got, I’m being recorded on two other podcasts this evening. As we’re recording this, so that’s three different podcasts I’m gonna be on talking about the book. I’ve got some other conferences I’ve been booked in to speak, I’m going to attend. I’ve worked with Thunderclap, special offer, press and distribution network, so I’m part of the, I know people who are in PR in the industry will be able to help get the word out. I’ve got a video that I need to create. Crowdfunding to see leveraging the crowd funders have already helped support the book, ’cause obviously they’re invested now in the project. Taking and extracting quotes and making shareable stuff, so I guess a bit like what, Mark Schaefer did today where he showed sort of that image from his book and where you show sort of quotes or something people can read.
Ben Roberts: So that, I guess, where you have that snackable content, which comes off the back of this big project would be nice. And I’ve then written down, sort of, crowdfunding case studies, the chatbot, the Goodreads, I’ve got all this stuff, I know that, and I’ve been getting like a full scheduling plan and post interviews and maybe sort of try and get back on the people I’ve already talked to and do Facebook Live’s of them so I can actually talk through what we discuss in the book and how it’s all comes together. So, I’ve got a few ideas, and I guess, it’s best to be working in marketing as a marketer, I should have those ideas, and I guess I’d be worrying if I didn’t.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I mean, it reminds me of, I’m not sure if I said this to somebody else, or somebody else said this to me when I was in a student years ago, and I used to do student politics, but it’s the same sort of thing with a launch. It’s like you do as much as you reasonably can, and then you do a little bit more, and that or…I mean I don’t take any notice of that advice myself, but I know it works. It’s you do as much as you possibly can to push your book, and then you feel like you throw yourself to the edge of exhaustion and you’ve done as much as you possibly can, and then you do a little bit more. And if you’ve done that, then, A, you’ve done as much as you can, and B, you’re not gonna feel well, maybe if I’d done this or done that. There will be some things that you see just don’t work. I mean, make use of things like UTM code, so that you know.
Tim Lewis: And also, this is something else that you may not be aware of, set yourself as Amazon US affiliate, and a UK affiliate, and then, the way the Amazon affiliate, well to explain, I’m sure I’ve said this on the show before, and I’m sure you know how affiliate deals work. So, somebody, if I have an affiliate link to Amazon, for my book, and it can be your book, or it could be for your book, as well. If somebody clicks on that link, and then goes onto Amazon and buys your book, or my book, I get like 2% of the value of that book paid into my affiliate account.
Ben Roberts: Okay, yeah.
Tim Lewis: What people don’t appreciate is you can sell these multiple affiliate IDs, so, for the show for example, and I don’t think I’ve actually earned…I’ve earned about, like, five dollars on the show from the affiliate links. But if I like to books and things, you can actually in your affiliate account you can set up different IDs so I think quite like, BSP1, BSP2, BSP3…So, what you can do is when you set up your affiliate account, set up different affiliate codes for different social media networks or different campaigns and then you, if you’re using those links in your twitter posts, or on your email, or whatever, you can tell where the sales came from.
Tim Lewis: So, it’s not going to be ideal because affiliate links don’t always work, but it’ll give you some idea, if you’ve got like a thunderclap, if you’ve got a separate affiliate link on Thunderclap, to say Facebook, and you get no sales from Thunderclap on the affiliate link, you’ll know that that’s really not being that successful. Because it can be really hard to actually check that whole end to end process, but you can set up these different affiliate codes, in the Amazon affiliate thing to say where, to allow you to specify and those are different affiliate links. So that’s something else you might wanna look at getting. I mean, you can get that set up now, if you want to, start playing around with links to…If you haven’t already got, you might already have one set up.
Ben Roberts: No, I don’t, no. But I’m not saying then, is it worth, if I set up on Amazon then, a pre order, set up, I put a draught of the book in so I could get the pre-orders going and everything. If I put that day in, does that date then, is that pre-order campaign date set, so if I go it then gets released on that date, or can I wait? Actually, so say I set it for February the 25th, lets say, and say it actually rolls over into March, and lets say the release date ends, could I change that release date even though there’s been pre-orders? Or does that, do you have to, is it all set in stone?
Tim Lewis: You have to do it. I mean, that’s why I put my book on pre-order, so I have to get it done by that date.
Ben Roberts: That’s my thought, I’m trying to think that actually maybe I put it on Amazon as a pre-order, but I maybe I set it for a week later than I think it’ll take me to get done. So that way, it leaves you, ’cause there’s no, it has to go out on that date, but I have got that breathing room to make sure that I’m actually not rushing the marketing and the quality, and I’m not rushing any of the quality of it. So, I’m thinking actually, ’cause you can only do, is it 30 or 60 days?
Tim Lewis: 90 days. I, honestly, I would suggest you don’t do it pre-order.
Ben Roberts: Why would you say that?
Tim Lewis: Well, the for Apple or something like that pre-orders count towards sales when the book happens. But, for Amazon, those count towards in the pre-sale bit. So pre- books can chart on pre-order, but you’re, again, you’re missing out the surge, potential surge of people. If they bought pre-order then when it actually…Actually when you want them to buy which is in the first week or so. So that’s why I would say you’re not really gaining an awful lot by putting it on the pre-order. ‘Cause you’ve already got all these crowdfunding people who are not gonna buy on Amazon ’cause they’ve already got it. You don’t want a load of pre-order people buying it, as well. So, I mean, it’s a bit, I suppose in some ways it’s a bit moot, because, these are non-fiction books, and the charts aren’t really as important with fiction books. Because, unless you get into like, business number 10 on business or something, it’s not gonna make that much difference.
Tim Lewis: But, I’m like, well, what are you gonna gain from being on pre-order really, at the end of the day?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, I suppose that, yeah, I guess the reason I thought it actually may count towards the overall things. I guess, I look to other people and they do these pre-order campaigns through Amazon, and it was trying to go actually is that a good thing to do because it would count towards actually the orders so it means instead of having, so you knew that people were getting your book right away, and it would all count towards the order number. But actually that doesn’t help you rank at all? Now is that a good or bad thing, but I guess it’s nice that you can actually to a bit of a soft drip campaign, so you don’t have to absolutely slam everyone through that first week. I guess you could build it up over a month, month and a half instead of having to go, “Look, bam bought my book, bam bought my book” or wherever marketing you use, actually by having a pre-order campaign, you’ve actually got a month or up to 90 days potentially to start getting orders in so you don’t have to slam people, if that makes sense. I guess that’s the difference.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, but for you, I mean that drip drip thing doesn’t…Well, it can work for books but you ideally want it so they’re getting drip drip and moving them slowly on but the book’s actually not available yet. And then, like, you’re buy of the book is the people who have had all the drip drip drip for a month and then they buy the book at the same time, because that will get in you in the chart, where if you’re kinda like drip drip, you got people buying it pre-ordering it, it might get to number hundred in the chart and that’s gonna give you no value whatsoever. So, as I say it might be moot, ’cause you may, this is a business book, and how many sales do they get? It surprised me, looking at even in my book, looking at the, like when I had a few days, you really shoot up into those charts because they just, that’s how the books are, there’s loads and loads of books not selling many copies in the business books charts. So, how much value you get from actually being in those charts is like hmm. But its like, why risk it, really, at the end of the day.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, no, interesting point, it’s a big, definitely one to consider, ’cause I always thought that actually getting in there, but actually maybe it’s something to reconsider.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure if you’ve asked me this before, is wherever you want to go just with Amazon, so you put in the KDP select scheme. Or whether you wanna go wide, and this is for e-books basically, do you want to go, make it available in other stores like Google Play, Apple, Kobo, et cetera.
Ben Roberts: My initial thought was, Amazon because that’s one I see, feel most confident, I think, I might change my mind once I see. ‘Cause then it would create it all for across the design would work right where across the e-book spectrum, platforms, am I right in saying that?
Tim Lewis: Yeah, it’s got a little checkbox and you say, on for Kobo a generic e-book, one for Amazon, blah blah blah, paperback format, so-
Ben Roberts: So yeah, I…Yeah, I think it could be done either way. I hadn’t overly considered that, but it’s something that is now on my marketing plan list.
Tim Lewis: I think I’ve sold exactly, I think I sold one copy on Google Play, as such. But the majority has been on Amazon, in terms of e-books.
Ben Roberts: Well that’s the thing, if it’s not much work then it’s fine, but actually in a way you almost wanna…I might initially just release it on Amazon to try to get that…That’s where the direct everyone to. Then over time when it matters less, then expand it out. But I want, I think initially is focus all the traffic in on that one location, so that actually maximise the potential of that.
Tim Lewis: I mean, the advantage of going to other stores is that it’s very easy to end up thinking that only, that Amazon are everything, but Amazon are enormous in the US and the UK, and to some extent Germany, but in a lot of the rest of the world, Amazon really aren’t that big at all. So, I mean, Amazon is, well reasonably big in Canada but I think Kobo are bigger than Amazon in Canada. And companies like Kobo and Apple iBooks are bit across places like Africa, and a lot of Asia, and places like New Zealand. So, having a wider reach of stores you make the book available more globally than would be the case otherwise. So that’s one reason for going wide, but on the other hand, you’ve then got another, at least one other interface to be checking for sales all the time. And every time you make a change to your book you’ve got to upload it to another site, as well as Amazon.
Tim Lewis: I corrected a typo and somebody got divorced in the book and changed their name, so I had to change that. So I had to upload my book to the printer to redo in the new paperback version, the ebook on Amazon, I had to upload it to PublishDrive, I had to upload it to Kobo because I go direct to Kobo. I think I’m somewhere else…No no that was it, so it’s kind of like, it takes its toll, by having places to go. That’s something to consider, anyway.
Tim Lewis: So, I think we’re kind of, I think we’re caught up now, so I’m not entirely sure when I have you on the show next. I think you, I was gonna do you after you’d released the book but it may well be in the pre-release phase, which is probably better, it should be more interesting. So-
Ben Roberts: Yeah, well yeah we’ll definitely make a time to make it work, as long as everything’s all gone to plan, I think either just before or just after, I think either one can be done quite well.
Tim Lewis: So I’ll talk to you probably in February then.
Ben Roberts: Yes, no thank you for keeping me on track. I guess this whole point isn’t it is actually talking through some of the nuances and some of the details and intricacies of actually self-publishing which aren’t always easy to find answers. Or actually you don’t necessarily know that you need to know the answer or even that that’s even a thing until you start having a conversation with someone.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, exactly.
Ben Roberts: You don’t even know where to look for that. I wouldn’t have known where to look for actually the Goodreads stuff because it just wasn’t in my psyche so it’s this sort of stuff that I hope is actually helping me, that actually people listening, it’s actually that’s where the value is.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Okay, well thanks for being on the show, Ben.
Ben Roberts: Hey the pleasure was all mine as always, Tim.
If you liked this show you might like Meet Ben Roberts, Ben Finishes His Manuscript and Holly Discovers the Final Steps