Tim Lewis: I’m taking a break from the tutorial series mainly because, well I have to really. Even though I have actually seen Jen Cole in person very recently we didn’t have a chance to actually record an interview out in the Midwest about her book plan, which I’ve actually now seen, but we’re going to record that in a week or so. So, given that there’s a little hiatus in the tutorial series I thought I would talk about my recent book release for my new book, Social Media Networking.
Tim Lewis: It’s been a while since I’ve released a book, and I’ve never ever released a non-fiction book before, or a book like this, where there’s a whole compendium of people involved in the book project. So, to recap, and I think I mentioned this in previous podcasts, but this is a book about how people have used social media to get ahead in their careers, in their romantic life. To improve their travel experience, and also to get speaking gigs, and find other business opportunities. I’ve interviewed 20 people about various stories that they’ve had, in terms of how they’ve used social media to make improvements in one of these areas.
Tim Lewis: Now, as you may recall the original idea was that I was going to create an audiobook first for this project, so all of the interviews were recorded as audio interviews first. I edited them. Now, the big problem with the audiobook idea was simply that a lot of the audio quality wasn’t really good enough. I’m fairly sure that certainly some interviews … There was one where I interviewed Chris Strub, who is a very talented American guy who works for non-profits. He was driving his car in Canada at the time, so as you could understand the original audio was a bit patchy to say the least. My understanding is that Audible doesn’t really like poor audio quality, so I couldn’t really do the project the way I wanted to do it to begin with.
Tim Lewis: Eventually, I just got everything transcribed. It was a bit of a rush but I did get the book done. So, there’s my commentary at the beginning, and my commentary at the end, involving my lessons learned from the interviews, and also the text of the best parts of the interviews. I asked everybody four questions. Some people could answer some questions, some couldn’t others, and I took their best answer, and that’s included in the book. So, the audiobook first policy, I think could work if you’ve recorded the audio yourself professionally, so I’m still going to go back to the podcast series that I’ve done here, and try and create an audiobook from that, because I think it’s good enough audio quality that it’ll pass Audible’s tests.
Tim Lewis: Now, if I was going to do this kind of aggregated interview book again I would spend a lot more time enforcing where people actually answer the questions. So, I would try and insist that they treat it like a proper podcast interview so I could get as good audio quality as possible, cause some of the interviews are of that standard, but some have got issues with people laughing in the background, or dogs barking, or car noise. I think if you want to do an audiobook, first book involving other people, then you need really to know and to plan that right at the beginning of the book, which I kind of had the idea but I didn’t really enforce it the way I should’ve done.
Tim Lewis: What other lessons have I learnt in terms of launching a non-fiction book? Well, the second lesson was that you need to really plan your promotion of this kind of book, because I was so rushed in terms of getting the book finished that I didn’t really give enough time between when I finished the book and when the actual promotion for the book was going to take place. I wanted ideally to synchronise all of the 20 people who were involved in the book, in their promotion of the book, with my own promotion, and in the end that didn’t really happen. I told everybody to promote it on a particular day but I only told that a few days ahead. Some people didn’t get the message in time, some people didn’t understand.
Tim Lewis: I think if I was doing this kind of project again I would be basically weeks ahead telling people, “On this particular day,” and I’ll pick a significant day, so like the 1st of October, or something like that. And just basically, not just do it a few days ahead, and say, “Can you promote on this day?” But, literally weeks ahead I’ll keep reminding them over, and over, and over, and over, and over again to do it on this one particular day. And then, I would also synchronise my own promotions on that day as well.
Tim Lewis: What’s kind of happened is that most people did something on the day that I wanted them to, but a lot of people didn’t. A lot of people did it a day later, some people didn’t do anything, and it didn’t quite work as well as I intended. Though, I did manage to become a number one Amazon Best Seller, but that’s a whole another story, which I want to talk about in a minute. Some other innovations that I took to using in this project was that I used the Cover Creator in what is now KDP Print. I actually used KDP Print for the first time, so rather than using CreateSpace, because it’s now closed down, I use KDP Print.
Tim Lewis: Previously, I’ve got the covers custom designed by a designer, so both the front, the spine, and the back of the book created by a designer. This time I was too cheap to do that, so I used Amazon’s Cover Creator process and pasted in the eBook cover and the front, and I entered the text on the back myself. That seems to have worked reasonably well. You can tell the difference between a book where somebody has designed the whole thing, but on the other hand the Cover Creator creates fairly good quality covers basically. If you haven’t got the money for paying for somebody to do the whole thing then I think the Cover Creator can be quite a good programme to use, and that’s built into the KDP Print interface.
Tim Lewis: The other innovation was, I used the programme Vellum for the first time using the Mac-in-a-box solution that Paul Teague suggests. Now to begin with, on the first day or so, I was really cursing Vellum with abandon. I even emailed them to say, “Look, I may have to offer my money back.” The reason for this is that Vellum is very opinionated in the books that it wants, and it expects a certain structure. So, it likes basically chapters in a book, and you can have sections in your book, but my book had sections within sections, and that kind of broke Vellum. It made it very hard to actually get it to work properly.
Tim Lewis: Now, eventually Vellum support came back and said that they’ve got a volumes feature, so if you’re creating a box set then that box set can have sections within sections in effect, so that’s how I created the book in the end in Vellum. Once I got it working it is a very good programme Vellum, I can see why people rave about it, but just be aware if you’re creating a non-fiction book with sections and sections then you may have issues.
Tim Lewis: If you’ve got sections, and sections, and sections, and sections, then I think you’re going to struggle til you get Vellum to work for you, cause it’s very much my way or the high way with how Vellum creates the books. It will produce you beautiful books, but on the other hand if your book has got a particularly peculiar structure then it may not work quite the way you expect it to. But, I’m actually very happy with Vellum, in terms of the output it’s created.
Tim Lewis: Now, coming back to the categories, and the fact that I am now a number one Amazon Best Seller, I got in touch with Alex Newton, who has been on the show before, K-ytics. I said, “Well, can you tell me some categories that I could put this book into?” I have put the book into most of the categories he suggested, but one rather cheeky category that I put the book into was Travel United States, States Kansas. The reason for this is that there was one chapter in my book where I talk about my trip to Wichita. Which incidentally, as well, I’ve been, just back from. I did think long and hard about should I put this book in this category, cause it kind of applies but it’s a side thing for the book.
Tim Lewis: In the end I decided to do it, and the reason I decided to do it is that I’ve just got so fed up with people who have sold four books in a very easy category, saying that they were a self-publishing guru. And there’s me, and I have been in top 10 of really hard categories to get into in the past, I could never say I was a number one Amazon Best Seller because I’d never been number one in any category. In the end, I did put my book into the Kansas Travel category, and it became number one, because you only need about three books to sell. Basically, eBook travel guides don’t sell very much, and certainly on a state by state basis they don’t sell particularly much. So, when I sold about eight books in a day I was automatically going to be number one in that category. I’ve got the screenshots to prove that I was number one.
Tim Lewis: The other thing that I’ve noticed about this book is that unlike my other books it sells really well in paperback. People don’t generally want the eBook version of this book, they want the paperback. In terms of hand selling the book I was able to sell about 17 copies at the MarketEDLive Conference in the UK that I went to. It did help that three of the people who were people who I interviewed in the book were there, so that was great in as much as promoting the book, but people were happily buying this book from me for £8 at MarketEDLive Conference in Nottingham, in the UK.
Tim Lewis: I think it’s the first book that I’ve ever done that I feel confident of selling to people by hand, and that’s quite a different experience for me. Certainly, people want the book signed, but I’m happy to do that. That’s an interesting difference in this non-fiction book as opposed to the fiction books that I’ve written, where generally speaking I couldn’t really sell the books by hand, but I could sell them, I could give them away. So, that’s an interesting change.
Tim Lewis: In terms of what the book has accomplished, well, I’m now an Amazon number one Best Seller. I mean, at least scamming it. I’ve got a hosting of a Twitter chat out as a result of the book. I’ve also got a speaking gig at the Cambridge Social Media Day event on the 8th of November in the UK. That wasn’t necessarily directly from the book, but I think the book certainly helped in terms of giving me the authority to feel confident enough to go and speak at a major social media event.
Tim Lewis: In terms of my objectives, they weren’t necessarily to sell thousands of books, though I would’ve like to have done. Of course, everybody wants to. But it has given me authority in social media, and a foot in the door in terms of social media speaking. I feel the book has been a success, and certainly, I’m now in a stage where there are enough people who’ve got the book that I can pester on social media to get reviews. Once I can get the reviews I can look to do things like put in for various book promotion sites. So, this is kind of the next phase, so that, I’m just going to keep on hammering on about this book on social media until I can get as many people as possible to read it, and get the reviews coming in.
Tim Lewis: I think the book has actually been a success for me, and it’s certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of lots of things. I think you could do an even bigger interview based book where you have more people, and if you organise the project properly I think you could get a decent success out of the book. Similarly, it’s interesting to me how much, and I’ve forgotten this because I’ve clearly been in several books. This is the seventh book I’ve written, but it interests me to see just how grateful and surprised people are, to having appeared in a book. I just love the way that some of the people who are in the book have been showing their friends and families, and really promoting the book because they’re featured in it.
Tim Lewis: I forget how magical being in a book is, and being mentioned in a book, and just the general experience of having your name shown in a printed book. People just love that. So, I would certainly suggest to people that it’s not a bad idea to write a compendium book where you’re interviewing people. Anybody mentioned in the book will love it. I think it certainly works as a non-fiction format anyway.
Tim Lewis: So, those are my lessons that I learned from the book release process. It’s still clearly going on. It’s only been out for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve sold plenty of paperback copies. eBook sales aren’t doing as well as they were. And certainly, feel free to go and buy the book. And even more, feel free to leave a review for the book, because those reviews really do matter to me. I will talk to you guys next time.
If you liked this show then you might like Jen Commits to Publish, How do you revive sales in a book that doesn’t sell? and How to Write Short Stories with James Scott-Bell