In case you missed last weeks community hangout we chatted with Talent Consultant Jodi Brandstetter who gave us the rundown on how she self-published her first book on Amazon called "Hire by Design". You can watch the replay below and skim some of the transcript as well for the important highlights of our conversation.
How long did it take you to write it?
The book is only 107 pages long. I made the decision that I was going to write a book in February of last year, and the process of me completing it to the point where I had an experienced edit it was probably around May-June timeframe. So, it was a pretty fast process. I utilized a book coach who gave me some tools, and the whole goal was to try to write a book in 12 weeks.
What was the first thing you did. You got a book coach?
Yeah. Actually, I wasn't looking to write a book. It was always something in my mind, because just like what you said, Chris, it provides credibility. People believe in who you are once you write a book, which is kind of crazy, but I knew I had something in me to do, but I wasn't planning on it for 2020. And actually my book coach connected with me on LinkedIn, and did ane excellent job selling me on a conversation, and I started talking to her, and she really gave me the confidence that I could write a book, and then she gave me the tools to help me be able to actually finish the book. So, that was the process.
How much did it cost to publish your own book?
So, fully disclosure, everything that I spent ... so I had a book coach. She gave me the tools to kind of understand my voice as an author. She provided me with an outline to help me structure the book. She was kind of bounce-off-idea person. And then I also hired her to help me with getting marketing materials. She helped format the book so it could be an e-book and paperback, and she also helped with getting it onto Amazon. So, she did that part. I also hired ... I had an intern who did my first edit, and I had an actual editor, so I paid her, and then I also paid for a cover design. So all in all I probably spent probably about $8,000.
Would you do anything different?
Honestly, after doing this, there's a lot that you can do on your own. I would never spend that much money again. I understand it now, there's ... I was very scared of Amazon, and it's actually not that hard to use, let alone to format. So, you can actually go onto ... if you are ... if you create an author account through Amazon, you have the capability of then utilizing their tools to format for free, so you don't have to pay someone to format. But you can format the same book to be an e-book as well as a paperback, so it really is just how you format it, is the difference between an electronic book and the regular book. So, if you got my book as an e-book, it looks exactly the same, just you had smaller pages, right? And you just wanted to make sure that there wasn't these weird gaps, so you might change the size between paragraphs, or stuff like that. But it's really just making sure it fits what you want the Kindle experience, or your cell phone experience to be like.
How do you format a book?
You can just write it in Word, and then you can put it into the Amazon website and into this format, and then it's just a system that you look at, and you can just kind of play with how the book looks. You can do Word or you can do PDF. Either way, you can upload it into it and pull it through, and be able to see how that's going to look. And then you can, once you do that, you can actually get a link to the book and get it on your Kindle or your phone, and you can go through without anyone buying it, just to kind of see does it look right, is there any issues. I used a couple of fonts that were, I thought, a little too aggressive, so we changed them to be not as dark and thick print. So, yeah. I just played with it.
Who designed your book cover?
I used 99designs.com - I loved that, because you got all these different people who created book covers, and you got to look at them, and tweak them, and then I ended up sending it out to my network and asking them what was ... vote on your favorite. And then even from there I had another level of iteration of changing the colors and stuff, but yeah. I used them, which was great. Cost was around $400.
Is the book printed on demand each time someone buys?
Yes, It's on demand. So, you can get it out there on Amazon's website, and they'll print it once someone is interested. And then also you can get your own books, so you just pay for the print. So, I think it cost me a little over $2 to purchase my own book, and then I can sell it myself. Or, Chris, I do exactly what you said. This is now my business card, so I use it because a business card can be $2. So, I'm like, I might as well give them a book.
How much does Amazon make?
They take the cost of printing it, if it's a book, plus a percentage of selling it for you. So, they'll take the $2 that it costs to print. That always goes to them, plus ... and so, you see that. So, you'll see how much money they're going to take from, that book from you, and then you can make a decision on how much you want to charge off of that. And it's different for a Kindle. That percentage, obviously they're not printing a Kindle, but they still take money out for that. And you can have as low as $0.99, to however much you want to sell it for. So, there's a very wide variety of price points.
What price do you sell your book for?
So, the first thing I did when I ... one of my goals with the book was to become a best-seller for Amazon, and the whole logic around that, obviously, helps with your credibility, but there's a game you play in order to become a best seller, and the best seller ... you have to really work hard to get people to say they would buy your book. So, the strategy that the book coach provided me was the first week, first two weeks, let's do a Kindle-only e-book, and put it for $0.99. That way you can ask anyone, hey, I wrote a book. Do you mind spending a dollar on buying my e-book? So, more people will say yes, and then you can open up your network to anyone and everyone. And the goal was to get at least 200 people to say yes to buying your book, because if you can get to that point, depending on the categories that you use, it's a pretty no-brainer that you'll get best seller on the day that you launch.
After that I shifted to regular pricing. So, my Kindle's $7.99, and then my book's $15.99. And I did look to see what other talent HR books were, how much they cost, so I tried to stay in line with what they were doing. I make roughly 10 bucks per printed copy.
Can you tell me a little bit about that 12-week process of writing your book...why you set a goal that was that aggressive?
I wanted to do it that fast because I felt like if I didn't do it, if I didn't push myself that far, I wouldn't actually do it. So, I knew that if I didn't do 12 weeks it was okay, but I definitely didn't want to make this ... I was listening to one podcast, and someone said it took seven years to write a book, and it was a good data book, I'm reading it ... but I'm like, how will I remember what I wrote seven years ago? I have mom brain, no way. So, I really wanted to have that structure just to make sure I did it, because if I was going to spend money on writing a book, I wanted to make sure the book got done. So, that's why I was really interested in that format of 12-weeks.
What my process was, the outline is first understanding, okay, what do you want to write about? What are the chapters? So you first kind of just think about what each chapter's going to be, and then the format I used was first thing you want to do in a chapter is a story to gain attention, to get people to want to read the chapter, and then you take from that story what you want to speak about. So, insights, best practices, what did I learn ...
And then at the end you focus on summarizing your chapter, and then you do a spoiler, or kind of get them to the next chapter, so kind of tying those two chapters together. So, that was the format, and so what I ended doing was I figured out what each chapter was going to be, I either took stories from my past experience where I found case studies that I felt like made the most sense to use for that chapter, and then I built my takeaways. I added additional stories when I felt like I should, and then that summary, and then the kind of getting them to that next chapter.
And so I did that all first, and I also had a doc where I was putting links or content that I knew I was going to use in the book when I was going to write it. So, if it was a story that I had, I actually wrote the story right then and there because I had already thought about it. And then I would, like I said, just put links to the case studies I was interested in, or whatever data I wanted to add to the book. I did the outline and the research all at the same time.
And then after that, what your body has to feel comfortable writing. So, you want to write at the same time each day, so what the book coach told me to do was to take two hours a day at the same time, and that was my writing time. And that's only ... I was writing only two hours a day, and eventually your body gets used to writing at that time, and so all of a sudden stuff really starts to ... your creativity, your content really starts to flow. And that happened. I do believe that happened for me. It started to be much easier by the end, and so I did that. I ended up not getting to do two hours at one time because of the pandemic, so I got eight to nine, and eleven to twelve were the two hours I got each day with my husband able to watch my daughter so I could focus. And I ended up having to work on the weekend too just because of everything that was going on.
And then the other piece I felt like was a really good takeaway from her too was that you do one chapter, you submit it to your editor, and you go to the next chapter. You never go back, because if you go back, you're never going to move forward. So, once you've completed that chapter, go on to the second chapter. If you have an idea, like oh I should've put this in the chapter, make a note of it, put it to the side, so that once the editors done reading it, and doing their editing piece, you can add that story then, but you want to make sure you do all of them. And then you tell the editor that you don't want them to provide you with any of the chapters until you're done. You give them each chapter when you're done, and then once you're finished with your 10, 11, 12 chapters, you then tell the editor, I'm ready to go. And then they start sending you the edited the chapters. You correct the chapters you have, send it back, and then let them edit one more time, and then you edit it, and put it all together, let the editor read it one more time, whole ... just for the whole flow of the chapter, and then you're done. You don't edit it anymore, because if you keep editing it, you're never going to publish it.
Why did you publish the ebook first?
So that's the other thing about going straight with the e-book. If people start reading it, and they start seeing any kind of grammatical errors, or anything like that, you have time to fix it before you push out the paperback. Once you push out the paperback, it is what it is, you'll have to recreate it, and then you have people that have paperbacks that have spelling errors or something. So, I would ... it was really nice, because that helped me keep my flow. I think if I was able to go back to the first chapter, I would still be writing my first chapter today, and if I could edit 100 times I probably would've. I could feel myself wanting to do that. As a person, I want to keep editing this until it's perfect, but it forced me to say, no. Three edits and we're done, and let's push forward. So, it really was kind of keeping you really focused on each step, and making sure that you got each step done before you went to the next.