The evolution of my self-published books

Following publishing another book I thought it would be therapeutic for me to go through the changes that have taken place from book-to-book. I initially wrote this after my last book, Those Who Shout Loudest, & have finally decided to post this article.

I think this will be useful for anyone thinking about self-publishing a book, as I made plenty of mistakes with each release which you will be able to learn from.

Quick note, I actually did some publishing in my teenage years, which you can read about in this article where I also discuss the mistakes I made back then (click here).

online marketing guide 2019

Pretty Isn’t Good Enough

The creation process:

Pretty Isn’t Good Enough was initially planned as a digital release for my website. At the time I was looking for a project that I could complete entirely on my; from writing, to the illustration and designing the content, to the distribution.

The first released version was an online marketing guide rather than a book. The main focus for my guide was market research, as I believe that good market research is essential (as that way you can find what actually works within your chosen industry).

There were a few reasons I was interested in releasing an online marketing guide. Firstly, because I noticed that people were being fed broad information that didn’t help them within their specific industry. Secondly, because I noticed that I had a large international following from entrepreneurs in 3rd world countries (specifically Africa) and felt like this information could help them significantly.

The guide was designed to be bright and colourful, easy to navigate and refer back to. I think it’s pretty great for people starting to use online marketing, as it gets you thinking about the broader picture as opposed to just focusing on what’s prettiest.

Following Pretty Isn’t Good Enough being released on my website, I decided to release it on Amazon as both an e-book and a paperback to help sales.

As the initial digital guide was only 42 pages long, I thought it needed padding out before being released as a physical book. I went back through my articles from the previous months and assigned them to chapters, adding them as “Additional Tips” for the reader.

What I got right:

The digital version looks exactly how I intended it, and has managed to reach people in 3rd world countries as I hoped it would.

The e-book release went well, with most of the revenue generated from the book coming from Kindle Unlimited readers and Kindle users sharing the book. At its peak, the e-book got to number #9 on the web marketing chart for Amazon.co.uk

What I got wrong:

The first thing I have to mention is the amount of mistakes I made on the paperback version of this book. The front cover (which looked great when used on the digital guide) looks far too simple, and whatever printer Amazon uses to print the books can’t be relied on to replicate the cover design, resulting in the border on my copy of Pretty Isn’t Good Enough being off-centre. Additionally, I didn’t space the pages correctly, making it difficult to navigate though. Finally, the book size I chose was far too big.

The mistakes I made don’t just stop at the physical product either.

I wanted the paperback book’s title on the Amazon store to be: “Pretty Isn’t Good Enough: A Guide To Digital Marketing & Branding“, but because I only had “Pretty Isn’t Good Enough” in large text, Amazon only allowed that as the book’s title. The e-book version did have the full title, which is probably why it did so much better than the paperback.

Finally, the biggest mistake I made; I didn’t realise people could preview the first several pages of the book. On the 7th page I included a link to a website page I created exclusively for those that bought the e-book or paperback version, and also revealed the password for getting into the page. This pretty much made a lot of the book redundant, as they could go on the website page to download the original version of the book for free, without needing to purchase the paperback or e-book.

So stupid of me…

The Influencer Bubble

The creation process:

The Influencer Bubble was created following me getting annoyed that people didn’t really understand what Pretty Isn’t Good Enough was. It was too niché for family and friends to read for pleasure, so I wanted to create something they could enjoy.

Additionally, I wanted to cover a topic in more detail than what I was typically writing on my website, and at the time I had a lot to say about influencer culture and how brands were using influencers.

Realistically The Influencer Bubble is an extended article formatted as a book. This is evident by the subheadings throughout chapters, which is similar to what you’d expect when reading a feature article in a magazine.

At the time of writing I was in a bad head space, and writing The Influencer Bubble definitely helped me cope with the emotions I was feeling at the time. Because I wrote it at a negative point in my life, I ended up avoiding editing and publishing it for several weeks following me finishing writing, which is why a few mistakes did make their way into the final version.

What I did right:

First thing that I have to acknowledge; what a title. I mean, come on, the amount of articles and people who said “influencer bubble”, but nobody thought to use it as a title for a book about influencers? Missed opportunity, and now my alias is forever tied to that term.

The subject matter was mainstream enough that the book saw almost a few hundred downloads, which was amazing to see.

Additionally, the cover for the book was simple, which worked well for marketing as it was easy to read when shown as thumbnail on Amazon.

Overall the formatting of this book was also much better than Pretty Isn’t Good Enough.

What I did wrong:

I think it’s fair to say that The Influencer Bubble was slightly shorter than it should have been (with the total length around 70 pages), which likely contributed negatively to the overall success as it might have been off-putting to those interested in reading.

The book size was also wrong, making the text look slightly too big for my liking.

Finally, I underpriced the book upon release. At the time I went for the cheapest possible price to try and increase sales, but when I slightly increased the price several months later it didn’t negatively affect sales (meaning I pointlessly missed out on revenue). An extra 50p may seem like a big difference to you when publishing the book, but people generally won’t see it as a reason to not purchase and it will make a big difference to revenue.

Those Who Shout Loudest

The creative process:

If my first two books were my mixtapes, this was my debut album.

Those Who Shout Loudest was written following me publishing several articles studying different companies and how they marketed their products. I found that I was really enjoying the process of writing these articles, so I wanted to create a whole book looking at different brands and what we can learn from them.

The cover for this book was an important part of the creation process, and required a lot more work than my other books.

At first it was going to feature a megaphone, but several popular advertising books have a megaphone on the front cover, so I thought it would look too generic. As a result, I compromised and used a microphone.

The initial idea for the microphone was to make it cartoony, similar to the cover for Normal People by Sally Rooney. However, as I began to illustrate the cover, I realised that the grille of a microphone has far too much detail for this style, unless I made it completely 2D. Because of this, I decided to make it more detailed.

The microphone on the cover was initially an image which I then dissected into many individual pieces. Following this, I used a “Charcoal and Chalk” filter on each section (each done individually with care to ensure it kept its 3D quality) making it appear illustrated. I chose this filter to better suit the blue background, as the charcoal has a cooling property to the image.

You can see the “Chalk” on the left of the microphone. Some people think it looks like a mistake (as if I cropped it out incorrectly), but I kept the detail as I think it helps the 3D nature of the image.

Maybe this was a lot of effort which people won’t notice, but I thought it was important for creating a better quality book.

What I did right:

It may have taken three attempts, but I finally chose book dimensions that don’t look too big. The formatting of this book is also much better than either two releases, resulting in the final product looking pretty professional (for a non-professional’s release, I mean). Additionally, the formatting I used translates much better across paperback and e-book formats.

The book is also an ideal length. Twice the length of The Influencer Bubble, but not long enough for the contents to become repetitive.

The cover is as eye-catching as possible when reduced to a thumbnail on Amazon, but not to the point where it looks ridiculous when on the paperback version.

What I did wrong:

Despite the book’s initial release being successful (with the paperback debuting at #11 on the E-Business and #13 on the Advertising best sellers list, staying consistently high throughout the first 24 hours), the e-book version has actually been my least successful release so far.

The first two books generated the majority of their revenue through the e-book version, with a big portion of this coming from Kindle Unlimited readers (who can read the e-book for free as part of their subscription). So far, Those Who Shout Loudest hasn’t attracted many Kindle Unlimited readers.

There’s a variety of reasons this could have happened. Maybe the book’s description doesn’t capture the audience’s attention enough, or maybe the title is too vague; something has definitely gone wrong.

The previous two e-books were much more focused on a topic, which was likely why they performed better. Pretty Isn’t Good Enough had its extended title that said it was an advertising guide, and The Influencer Bubble is of course a popular topic to cover.

Ultimately it’s difficult to execute a creative vision and balance what’s best for marketing a product, and in this case I definitely prioritised my creative vision over what was best for the book’s overall success.

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