Learn to Self-Publish an eBook
Tim Lewis: On this episode, I talk again to Ben Roberts who has now completed his whole book writing journey so this is his last episode on the podcast. I want to apologise for the missed episode that had in March. This was purely because I was waiting for a podcast edit to come back from somebody I’d outsourced the editing to and it came back a day too late for me. I had to just miss the show. But anyway, the show is coming on. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do about next week’s episode, which is episode a 150. A few scheduling problems with people so it may be one of my more reflective solo shows. Anyway, let’s go over to the interview with Ben.
Tim Lewis: Hello Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben Roberts: Hello Tim. Thank you very much for having me on again.
Tim Lewis: Yes. And the more avid listener will realise that this is actually going to be your final show because you’ve now released your book and it’s been out there for a little while, hasn’t it?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, it’s been out, oh God, maybe a month. Just less than a month, maybe just over a month. Some sort of month maybe. God, time flies when you’re having fun.
Tim Lewis: Exactly. The last time we talked to you about, I think it was about a week before the book was actually due to go live. I think you actually went live three or four, I think you might have gone live with the book actually before the show was aired the last one.
Ben Roberts: Potentially just, maybe.
Tim Lewis: Let’s walk it through. Let’s go back to those times in February or whenever it was. How did the launch the process go? Did it go the way you expected it to? And was there anything you learned during that process or anything that surprised you?
Ben Roberts: Yeah, I think it mostly went sort of how I wanted it to. I think there’s a lot of things I want to refine for next time. I haven’t really written down all my refinements yet. That’s been on my extensive to do list, post book and there are things that I still want to do with it that I haven’t had a chance yet. There are things that I didn’t quite realise is almost like once you submit the book to Amazon, actually how long it takes for you to actually the eBook pops up and then the paperback pops up. They pop up on different URLs and then getting those together. It’s little things like that.
Ben Roberts: What else was there? When you order, when people order books, there’s no notification system. It’s like you basically what happens until it’s shipped. It’s like don’t know if anyone’s bought it yet. You’re trying to do your launch, I want to be excited. You have to wait a couple of days before you can get excited.
Tim Lewis: You’ve got the KDP interface haven’t you? You know there’s sales on there. Really the paperback bit can be a bit slow to appear on there. But the eBooks are usually, they’re not sort of real time. But usually you can find out in a day or so. The chart ranking is usually more or less up to date. How did the book do in terms of, I know you obviously ordered a lot of copies of the book yourself, to sell or give away at Atomicon and various other conferences but how have just general sales on Amazon gone with the book?
Ben Roberts: Yeah. I’d say probably around sort of what I’d hoped. Potentially more. Potentially less. To be honest, I really had no idea on what sales would be. For me, it wasn’t about becoming, making this book Fifty Shades of Ben. For me, this is the first book and I think this is going to be a real launch pattern. I am not really watching the sales. I haven’t looked at it for probably about two weeks now maybe. ‘Cause for me, it’s about opening doors, new opportunities, meeting new people. For people who I’m trying to connect with, it’s now using the book as an opportunity to open doors and connect with different people that potentially rightly or wrongly, seemed out of reach before.
Ben Roberts: For having a chat with someone, I’ve now been able to get one of the senior managers at HubSpot has agreed to come on the podcast. We did a book swap and that book swap has led to a podcast swap which is things like that which are really cool doors to open up. In terms of sales, I had no idea whether I’ve done good or bad or indifferent but I know I ordered a lot of books so like you said, I gave away a lot. Well I didn’t give away, I sold a fair bit, I gave away once the people who’d done the crowdfunding. That was already like 40 books I distributed without using Amazon. 40, 50 books. It’s quite a lot of books.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, exactly. I suppose a fundamental question is, now that you’ve done this whole book creation process, do you feel that it was worth your time doing this process?
Ben Roberts: Oh absolutely. Even if again, I think I had the right, for me, I had the right intention. I wasn’t in there to go, this is going to make loads of money. It’s going to do this and that. I had my expectations. I was doing it more for me. It was more for me and it’s satisfying what I need now. I still need to do things like the audiobook. I still have these things to do which is frustrating ’cause I’ve got so much on in work and again, where I have a difficulty is, all this stuff I have to do outside and around on my work and hockey commitments. Another thing, to try and get the balance right between all this stuff is damn, damn hard. That’s the bit, trying to work out at the moment. I wish I, I’m pretty happy. I wouldn’t change it but it’s like, ah, I wish I could’ve done it a little bit more.
Tim Lewis: From when you started the crowdfunding process to when you published, how long was that?
Ben Roberts: Must have been seven and half months maybe. For me, that seven and half months of actually planning the book and writing it. That’s a year. It’s a year and a half really when you think about it ’cause the ideas all started coming together and it’s basically the podcast and that’s almost like a year and a half’s worth of research for it to get to that point.
Ben Roberts: Yeah, it took probably six, seven months to write in total. Six months from crowdfund to publish I reckon. I think I must have done my crowdfunding in July or August. I think it was August I did my crowdfunding and obviously published it in March.
Tim Lewis: Okay. What would you say it the thing that most surprised you about the whole book writing process?
Ben Roberts: Surprised me. That’s a quite a tough one. I think the thing that surprised the most is actually how efficient I can be. When you allocate time and you actually dedicate yourself to giving time, it’s actually amazing how much you can get done. I like to be a pretty organised person. I pride myself on being able to do lots of stuff and I have a mentor that helps me be able to make sure that I can get everything done and understand why I do everything and how long things are really going to take me and help me sort of manage myself. For me, that was awesome. Guy just really helped me understand actually look, when you put the time, how much you can really do. That was a really nice surprise to me I think.
Ben Roberts: And because I was never a writer actually. That actually probably an even bigger surprise is, I loved stories when I was a kid. Loved them. I loved reading, I loved trying to write. I tried to write cover stories and I always gave up really quickly. Just couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the mental capacity. English in school, I was a C student. I wasn’t an A student. I enjoyed writing, I quite liked coming up with stories but the way I actually wrote them wasn’t necessarily in way that examiners liked. But, when people read them, when people read them, they said, “It’s a really good story but for what an English exam would need, it hasn’t go that.” It was surprising for me to be able to know that either one write a book and complete it. Two, that people have actually enjoyed it. That’s really nice. Yeah, it’s just nice to have something I never thought, I never really thought I’d actually do. To be able to just go and just do it.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I think the whole you have a be a writer to write a book thing is a bit of a misnomer because certainly self-publishing but even in traditional publishing there’s an awful lot of work that is done by other people either editors or a lot of it is the organisation of the book as much as the writing. I was trying to explain to somebody the other day, how much difference an editor can make in terms of a book.
Ben Roberts: Incredibly.
Tim Lewis: For people whose writing skills are not necessarily good. But obviously just from an organisational point of view. I don’t think being a poor writer necessarily stops anybody from writing a book but they have to be mindful that they need the help.
Ben Roberts: I wouldn’t say I’m not a poor writer. I can write pretty well but I guess it was when you’re in school, if you didn’t write a very particular way, it was things that you didn’t use, I’m going to use some English words I didn’t really know like palindromes and stuff like that. These are words I hear people talk about and it’s like stuff like that. I still don’t know what a palindrome is but it’s like, you had to use them in schools and that was basically it wasn’t about actually how good your story was or how well you could write, it’s how well you could put X number of elements into two hours of writing.
Tim Lewis: Well the problem with school is that you can’t have somebody else edit your, well you can if you got very rich parents, but you can’t have somebody else edit your story for grammatical and other flourishes like you could if you were a self-publisher or being traditionally published. It’s a team effort, a book. Because as you say, in your most professional people or people who’ve got some kind of online or object, we are writing all the time. We’re writing in blog posts, we’re writing in tweets, we’re writing in Facebook posts, we’re writing. It’s not like we haven’t got experience of writing and communicating things it’s just we haven’t necessarily got it on this grand scale that you need for a longer form work such as a book.
Tim Lewis: I think it’s that we all kind of think well at school where we were being tested on our ability really to be editors as much as anything, on the technical aspects, the fact that you’re not technically good at knowing what every word means in the English language or how to construct things, that’s where the help comes in and that’s what pushes a book ahead.
Tim Lewis: I’ve got your book in front of me at the moment actually and it’s very well formatted and presented. Should be proud of that at least.
Ben Roberts: Well thank you. Well I think that was part in your advisor in using Vellum. That was a really, really nice tool. Some of that was, it was really nice for me to be able to say almost, “Yes, you never had the best grade in English.” It just was a subject I struggled with and just able to get it the way people wanted to. It just doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a good story to tell, a good narrative, you know you were and I guess since school I’ve actually done a lot more writing in terms of so many blogs and it’s an area that I know really well. When you write about something you know well, it’s much, much easier and hopefully but as well, I really like the fact that I could put a lot of me into that book so I feel like the way it’s written, you go yeah, that’s Ben. And that’s what I hope people get from it.
Tim Lewis: Oh yeah, exactly. Another thing I was saying, who was I saying it to? Somebody I was saying, “Only about 5% people I reckon, actively do things.” There’s a lot of people who will say they’ll do stuff and I’m myself in that category a lot of time but the fact that you’ve actually gone through and completed a book, shows in itself something in terms of to people, what you’re saying, there’s a whole load of people who say they’re always going to write a book but they never get round to it. The fact that you’ve written a book and it’s a physical thing that you can give to people, has a certain amount of cachet in itself. Just from that, again, you should be proud of what you’ve done.
Ben Roberts: Absolutely. Yeah, for me this has mostly been tough. As well, physical and tangible to be able to have your books, it’s really nice to write a blog post and tweets of something goes viral, it just goes really well. But actually having something tangible that you can literally go, you know what? It’s almost like when people have their PhD. People don’t carry around their PhD and don’t hand it out to people but you know you’ve got something physical to show from it and this is something I’ve got physical that I’ve really proud of. That I can happily hand someone. Go, “This is me.” It’s really nice. I’m so happy with everything and how it looks, how it feels. I’m so happy that I paid someone some really to really design that. She was awesome. She’d never designed a book before but I gave her sort of an outline and we went through a couple of draughts and I’m just so happy with how the cover particularly comes out. It really helps the book stand out.
Tim Lewis: That’s good. I suppose the next question and I think you’ve hinted this might happen but, are you going to write any more books?
Ben Roberts: Yes. I will do. I did ’cause I enjoyed it so much and I want yes, I want to. I don’t know what yet and I’m not worrying about that yet. But, yeah. I’m definitely thinking about it. I’ve got a couple of ideas actually that are buzzing around my head but it won’t be for, I wouldn’t even start it for a year and a half ’cause I want to make sure that I spend enough time speaking and understanding what I’m getting myself into there. And also depends on things like family stuff. Again, I’m 26, things like that are going to come up so I’ve got to try and balance this life. And this is why I’ve tried to do a lot of this stuff now because there’s never a right time but I knew that now would be more of a right time than trying to do it when you’ve got a three year old kid running round.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, exactly.
Ben Roberts: I did. There is definitely another book. There’s definitely at least another book in me. I’ve got some good ideas. I just want, yeah, I just need, I don’t want to be that person that puts out a book every two years or something but I have really enjoyed it.
Tim Lewis: Presumably it’s going to be another nonfiction book. You’re not going to write that story that you.
Ben Roberts: I don’t know. I really, really do. I’m not a big reader but I tell you, when I get into a fiction book, if I get the right fiction book, I’m glued and it’s really hard to sort of get anything else from me. Which is actually part of the reason I don’t read very often anymore because I’m usually so busy doing other things, I know if I start reading a book that I really enjoy I’m like, I won’t put it down. Especially because novels and fiction books generally are a lot longer.
Ben Roberts: Yes, I’m more likely to write a nonfiction book but, it’s not completely out of the question. I like to challenge and push myself. I don’t want to be one of those people. You know me well enough by now Tim, if I decide that I want to do something, I’ll go out there and I’ll make it happen. Yes, it’ll probably lead to mistakes. And the way, but also to make sure that I don’t stretch myself too thin. When I decide in my head, yes I’m going to write another book, it will happen.
Tim Lewis: I’ll put money that you’ll write another book. We’ve talked about the launch process. We talked about what you’re going to do next. What do you say, this is going to be little bit sort of personal, and you can say it’s a waste of time if you’d like, how have you found being on this podcast has helped you in terms of writing the book?
Ben Roberts: Not at all Tim. Been a complete waste of my time. For me it was really helpful to always have that sounding board and to be able to get the advice of actually using the tools like Vellum. To be able to understand how the Amazon KDP process worked in order to clarify and just make sure that I’m on the right path. It’s always nice to have a sounding board and sort of a way to, you’re almost like having, it’s like having a counsellor or a mentor, Tim. But without the counselling without, and sort of without the regular mentorship. It’s almost just like that, having that person you could speak to where you almost have, you set these rough goals.
Ben Roberts: And you say, you’re at this stage now, so what have you learned there? What are you looking at in the next stage? It helps sort of keep you on track and it helps yeah, I felt bad when I said the book was going to be delayed by two weeks. You had a go at me. I was like ahhh! That sort of stuff, it’s really invaluable really and that is what I’ve really enjoyed.
Tim Lewis: I suppose did we do this at the beginning, but what I used to do on this podcast when I was interviewing people in one off shows was I always at the end, asked people how they could find out about what the person does. Have we ever actually talked about, obviously we talked about your book, but what else have you got? I know you’ve got podcast clearly, which are very similar but this is your five minutes to promote yourself and say, how people can find out about you, your book and everything you want to push.
Ben Roberts: Wow. You’re putting pressure on it. Obviously I’m host of the Marketing Buzzword podcast and obviously published this book, Marketing Buzzword to Marketing Authority which spins off the podcast. During the day, I’m head of marketing at a tech company. We’re in South Wales in the sunny UK and where we basically, we build software that allows people to basically it’s website communication software that allows live web chat, voice calls, video calls and co-browsing embedded into a website. Which basically means that instead of people having to pick up phones and call people, they can actually chat with people online, click call and actually call through. Basically it’s like Skype embedded into your website but you don’t need to download anything. There’s no plugins or anything. It’s basically in that chat functionality on the website. And that works obviously mobile and desktop and it’s really, really cool and it’s growing like crazy at the moment which is awesome. But obviously, it’s trying to balance up that, what I’m doing with the podcast and book which has allowed me to do a lot more speaking opportunities as well.
Ben Roberts: We’re in April now, I’ve got another four lined up for this year. I’ve done three or four this year already as well. It’s like, it’s opening up a huge number of doors for me. That’s what I do. Head of marketing at Talkative. Host of marketing podcast. Written a marketing book and speak at conferences about marketing stuff. And you can find me at marketingbuzzword.com. That’s the website where the podcast, the speaking, the book is. And LinkedIn, if you can search me @Ben M. Roberts ’cause there are literally too many Ben Robertses in the world. Ben Roberts, you don’t find me. Ben M. Roberts, I’ve nailed the SEO on that. Page one of Google is mine. Ben M. Roberts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, probably Pinterest. I’ve joined this TikTok thing now as well.
Tim Lewis: I’ve not yet gone into TikTok world.
Ben Roberts: I have not posted on it yet. My girlfriend hates me for looking at it ’cause I find it really funny. That’s me in a nutshell I hope. I think that’s a less than a five minute nutshell.
Tim Lewis: Okay, that’s good.
Ben Roberts: Ow! My cat just clawed my finger.
Tim Lewis: Are we going to have a live show injury when you have to be rushed off?
Ben Roberts: No. No. I think he was just saying hi. Cats.
Tim Lewis: Well, on that note I will say, thank you so much for appearing on the podcast and good luck in the future and go check him out our listeners, go and check out his website and listen to his podcast.