One of the best things I’ve ever done is publish my first book, 101 Disneyland Tips. Even though it was a lot of work, it was so much fun, and I really enjoyed the entire process.
Several people have asked me how I did it so quickly. I recently spoke on a panel at a the Entertainment New Media Network conference, and I talked about how I did it. So I’ll share the details here with you too.
Last summer I went to a small gathering hosted by The Morning Assembly. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Jadah Sellner, co-founder of Simple Green Smoothies. I intently listened to her talk about her company, newsletter, and publications. They created a business, and have had tremendous success ever since. I knew we had very different brands. But I could envision a publishing model of my own based on their experiences. Her talk was truly inspiring to me.
I went home and started thinking about my site and how I could expand upon what I was writing about. I started with the audience I had here on the blog, then added an email newsletter to build on that audience. I announced my newsletter on the blog, and began letting people know they could subscribe. To get people interested in the newsletter, I announced a giveaway, and a series of exclusive content that I would only share via the newsletter. This allowed me to build an audience that was slightly different than the casual readers of my blog. It took about a month to build up my subscriber base to a credible size. Then I was ready to start sending my subscribers content.
In August, I announced an email series named “30 Days of Disneyland Tips” for the month of September. One tip, per email, per day. I found good success with this technique. Surprisingly, I had about a 40% average open rate for that month, and very few people unsubscribed.
Since I had a backlog of additional tips ready to be published, I knew I could pull together enough content for a full book. I had just given my subscribers thirty tips for free. Now I could offer them those tips, plus seventy more tips in book form. Something tangible that they could use as a reference book, not a travel guide. I worked hard, and at the end of my 30 days campaign, I wasn’t far off from having an actual book published.
There are several ways of publishing a book. Ultimately, I wanted to publish it myself. Self-publishing requires a lot of work. You don’t have a third-party publisher helping you with design, editing, or distribution. But this also means someone else isn’t making decisions for you. You work on your own timeframe. This is how we were able to publish it so quickly. I didn’t need to shop around my idea to multiple publishers and wait for their responses. I had an idea, and began writing immediately, knowing I could set my own dates, and work to my own deadlines.
Luckily, my husband is a designer who has book design experience. So I could work closely with him without needing to find and pay a designer. I can’t overstate the value of this advantage enough, since finding a designer you can trust, work closely with, and afford to pay is very hard. I had also been working with an editor, so I didn’t need to find someone new to help polish my words. After a lot of research, patience, and trial and error with the various e-book formats, we released the book in November. Just a couple weeks past my original target date.
If it wasn’t for Jadah and her talk, I never would have tackled this on my own. And I certainly would not have had the confidence to pull it off successfully. I also had support from my family, many trips to Disneyland under my belt, and amazing friends who let me pick their brains about their own Disneyland trips. So my first real live book is now a reality, in both paperback and e-book formats. I just needed a bit of knowledge and that extra push to be able to turn my thoughts into a reality.
Coming up… more on self-publishing.