Usually as a content creator, you’re creating blogs, video content, and podcast. But there’s multiple avenues to get your content and brand out there.
Which all begs the question: have you ever wanted to publish a book?
Writing a book is a natural segue for many bloggers, but the journey can seem large and long.
In Summer of Live 2019, we talked to two Mediavine influencers who are both published authors: Jen Ruiz of Jen on a Jet Plane and Valerie Stimac of The Space Tourism Guide and Valerie & Valise. Jen and Valerie pack this episode with their honest individual experiences in publishing their own books, and give action-packed tips on how you can get started today.
Make sure to tune in!
- Jen On A Jet Plane
- The Space Tourism Guide
- Valerie & Valise
- Become A Published Author with Jeffrey Eisner | Mediavine On Air Episode 16
- The Solo Female Travel Book
- Dark Skies 1
[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Happy Thursday, everybody. It is July 11th, and we are in the Summer of Live. I’m Jenny Guy, Mediavine’s marketing manager, and it is our month of beyond blogging. So we are talking about the things that tie to your blogging career but might be a little bit outside just the nuts and bolts of operating your website. But we are here and we are so excited today to be talking about book publishing. And I have two amazing guests.
But book publishing can seem like a really natural segue for a lot of bloggers. It’s an extension of you sharing that expertise that you’re already sharing with your audience– that’s sometimes it– and then other times, it can be the impetus for people to begin blogging in the first place. We’ve heard a lot of publishers tell us they’re great authors, but they aren’t able to quite navigate the system and get published, so they decide to start a blog so they can make use of their expertise and their writing skills.
But whatever your experiences with book publishing, I’m here with two guests who are both highly successful publishers. We’re really excited to have them– both on their websites and with their books. So first I have Jen Ruiz. Hello, Jen. Welcome.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Hi, Jenny. Thank you.
JENNY GUY: Awesome. So she is the Mediavine publisher with the site Jen on a Jet Plane, where she writes about affordable female travel solo– which I think is so fierce and amazing. She’s a frequent conference speaker, and she also has her own TED Talk. No big deal there. And, exciting news, she just told me she is doing another TEDx Talk, which I’ll have her tell us about a little bit later. But her current TED Talk that’s already available for release is “The Power of Flying Solo,” which is advocating for travel as a cure for what ails you.
She’s also a lawyer and the author of the books You Need a Vacation, which is about how to travel with a full-time job, which we all could use, The Solo Female Travel Book, which is tips and inspiration for women who want to see the world on their own terms– who doesn’t?– and The Affordable Flight Guide, which is how to find cheap airline tickets and see the world on a budget. That last one I just mentioned, The Affordable Flight Guide, just happens to be a number one Amazon best seller.
So she has a few things she’s worked on. Jen, welcome, and tell us just real quick, what’s going on with you in your life right now? I know that I spilled the beans on your TED Talk, but what else is going on?
JENNIFER RUIZ: You did. I just got that notification minutes before logging on today.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Hot off the presses, important news. Otherwise, I have a couple of press trips coming up. I’ll be, actually, taking a food trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan next week, which I’m so excited about. I worked out really hard today to try to earn my right to eat all the delicious things next week.
I have a big move coming up. I’m actually relocating to Puerto Rico, which is supposed to be a great place for digital nomads. It’s where I’m from originally, so I’m excited to both kind of go back to my roots, and also explore just living on an island. I’ve never really done that. I’ve lived in Florida. It was close, sunny all the time. But I think Puerto Rico will be a whole different story. And that’s coming up now in August. And then I’ll be at the TBEX conference in September speaking on self-publishing there, as well.
JENNY GUY: That is awesome and so exciting. And congratulations again on your TED talk. That’s really incredible. I think we’re posting– we posted all of your links. I think we’re going to post the link for the TED talk, so we want to get that out. I’m sure people want to see that. And I’m going to introduce our other remarkable guest.
Valerie Stimac is also a Mediavine publisher. She has two sites, Space Tourism Guide, which provides the most accurate and accessible resources for space-related travel around the world– cool– along with Valerie & Valise, which is a blog for smart travelers who want to make the most of their time on the road. She’s an accomplished travel writer and conference speaker, with bylines in publications like Lonely Planet, NatGeo Travel, San Francisco Chronicle, Afar, Travel & Leisure, The Globe and Mail, and speaking engagements with WITS and Bay Area Travel Writers.
Valerie is also the author of Dark Skies: The World’s First Guide to Astrotourism– it’s published by Lonely Planet– as well as the travel journal Maps, Not Apps. They’re both available on Amazon, although Dark Skies is not out yet. And she’s got an exciting thing that she’s heading to next week. So Valerie, welcome to the Summer of Live.
VALERIE STIMAC: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: And will you tell us a little bit about what’s going on?
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah. So if you’re not a space nerd, that’s OK. I’m happy to get you up to speed. But next Saturday, the 20th, is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. So the very first time someone stepped on the moon was 50 years ago. And so I am headed down to Houston, Texas. They are having a huge– basically, a week-long party to celebrate the Apollo moon landing. And we’ll be meeting with astronauts, touring Johnson Space Center, seeing Space Center Houston– just getting a lot of space and space-nerdy moments with people who are as excited about it as I am.
JENNY GUY: That is incredible. And tell me a little bit about Dark Skies and when it will actually be able to be in people’s hands.
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, so Dark Skies, because Lonely Planet is a traditional publisher, they have a very large lead time. So we actually worked on the book last summer, turned it in last fall, and it’s not even going to be available until roughly mid-September. I don’t know that there’s an official date. I think Amazon says it’s available the 1st of September, but I am not totally certain of that. That might have just been a placeholder date, and that might be adjusted within a couple of weeks once we get closer to the publication date.
JENNY GUY: Awesome. And what is Dark Skies about?
VALERIE STIMAC: It is a guidebook to experiencing the night sky and outer space on Earth, organized by activity. So there are sections about stargazing, seeing the Northern Lights, seeing eclipses– which, there was one last week– seeing rocket launches. And then there’s even a section about space tourism itself that kind of details what are the different destinations in space, and who can take you there, and how much is it going to cost?
JENNY GUY: Awesome. So it sounds like– yeah, as the brief description that was on Amazon, it’s a comprehensive guide to just all things space, and space lovers. And that’s amazing. That sounds great.
So ladies, we’ve got– we always post this, but If anyone has questions about book publishing or wants to tell us about their book publishing journey, please post it in the comments. I will put your questions to these experts, and we will get you answered.
But I’m going to go ahead and start with one of my own questions. So for both of you, how do your journeys fit into this publishing narrative that I talked about a little bit when I first started, about were you an author before you were a website owner? Were you trying to publish books before you started your websites? Did you always want to be an author? Tell us your back stories a little bit, your journey, and what led you to book publishing and then to Mediavine. And whoever wants to start.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Do you want to take that first, Valerie?
VALERIE STIMAC: Sure, I’ll go first. So I actually started with my blogs, I started with Valerie & Valise, which is my own travel blog. And I started writing that because I wanted to work for travel magazines, and my mom, who is a very wise woman, said, well, until you get a job at one of those magazines, why don’t you start your own website? You know how to do that. You know how to write. You know how to edit. You know how to shoot photos. Do it, prove that you can do it, and that’ll help you get the job.
So I started Valerie & Valise in 2013. And then I was getting a little frustrated with writing about the same places everyone else was writing about, and that was what really brought me back to space, because it was this new destination that nobody was writing about from a travel perspective.
So I launched The Space Tourism Guide in 2017. And then I had the chance to pitch books to Lonely Planet last summer, so that was the summer of 2018. And I basically walked in the room– they had brought me in because I had written for them before– and they said, what ideas do you? This is not, what book do you want to write, but it’s what ideas do you have? What could we publish?
And when I pitched them the idea for Dark Skies, I said, I run a website about this, people are really interested in it, they sort of realized that they not only had a great topic, but they had the right person in the room. And so within a few weeks of pitching it, they came back to me and said, definitely want to do it. Do you want to be the person to write it? And I said, of course.
So yeah, I was a blogger before I was an author. But I was also freelance writing almost the whole time, too. And that really helped me be in the right place and know the right people to pitch Lonely Planet.
JENNY GUY: And we will definitely talk more about pitching and how to make those contacts a little bit later. But that is a good journey. So you were not necessarily trying to get your book published, but you were trying to get on a staff to be a writer. So being an author, being a travel author, has always been your goal
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, and I really thought, especially with the idea of Dark Skies, because I run my own website, I thought, you know, this is a good idea. Even if they don’t pick me to write it, if Lonely Planet publishes it, that topic actually helps me because people who search for their book would also probably find my website.
And so it was a little– it’s been more than great because I got to write the book also. But I was saying, look, if people are interested, anything that gets people interested in this topic and gets them googling, and going on Facebook, and joining communities where my links are present, that’s going to help my website– which, of course, helps my ad income. The more people I get, the better.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. OK, and same question to you, Jen.
JENNIFER RUIZ: So mine was a little bit similar. I was a blogger before I was an author, and I had set out to take 12 trips in 12 months before my 30th birthday. That was my big challenge, because I had really big issues with aging and just wanted to send off the year with a bang and have something to look forward to, versus, like, panicking every day.
So I did that, and then I ended up finding a lot of really cheap flights. And people kept asking me, well, how did you find all these deals? Oh my god, this is crazy. And I was like, it’s really– once you know how, it’s not that hard. But when you have knowledge that other people don’t possess, suddenly, you have the makings of a best selling book. Go figure.
And I think a lot of us have that, but we just don’t realize it. And we just think, oh, everybody knows this, or this is information that people can easily find. But people don’t want to go and have to hunt down and search through 20 different websites. They just want one reliable source from one person that they’ve come to trust.
So I unknowingly had spent a whole year promoting this book, essentially, sharing my flight deals with my audience, my friends on social media, just informally. Not with anything else in mind, but just thinking, oh, this is so wonderful, I want to share with the world what I’m doing. And then that ended up being really great for me, because that’s what you’re supposed to do as an author to help build buzz about a book. And then I had this kind of built-in audience that wanted to know my secrets for cheap flights.
And I thought about maybe just doing it in a series of blog posts, or presenting the information in a different way, but I realized that there was nothing stopping me from making a book. I mean, as a lawyer, I’ve written lengths of books before for a random assignment. So I’m OK with writing. I have that part down, I felt, in general. I’m still working on it creatively, but I felt like I can be structured enough to get a product out.
And then, from there, it was just a matter of learning how to publish it myself. And I did research into both aspects, self-publishing or traditional, and ultimately, I went with self publishing, because I thought, it’s my first book. It’s something that people who know me know that I’ve established this expertise here already, but maybe it would be harder for me to prove that at this stage, right now, before I was really that established, to a major publishing company. So let me just try and do it myself.
I started learning everything I could about self-publishing I went on– I listened to podcasts in my spare time. I just read articles on Sundays when I was sitting there eating brunch. And then I managed to get the book published, and that’s how I got started.
And then once I published one and it did so well, I entered it in a book award competition. It won an award. And I just decided, there’s a market here for this. People liked it. Let me try to continue with this and do related books along this line. And this is how I ended up an accidental author.
And it worked out so well, and it’s such a great passive income stream, and it brings me clients to my website from Amazon that is just this huge database of people, millions of people, that go there looking for somebody with your expertise, versus when you’re on Facebook paying for ads and you’re having to convince somebody to stop and go to you. People go there looking for you and what it is that you’re talking about, and then they go to your website because they see you as an authority. So it’s just worked out so wonderfully, and it was a happy kind of accident, in a way, that led me down this path.
JENNY GUY: We love happy accidents almost as much as we love passive income. So that’s always a good thing. So tell me a little bit about how you guys get your ideas for your books. And then, that can be just very specifically with the books that we’ve already talked about. And then also, if you’re going for different books, new books, how you brainstorm, how you figure out where that expertise lies, like you were saying, Jen.
And then, we say this all the time on both Teal Talk and the Summer Of Live, that it’s usually the thing that you should be doing and teaching people is the thing that you think is common knowledge, and easy for everyone else, and intuitive, and it’s not. It’s just intuitive for you, and that’s why sometimes it’s so hard to recognize.
So yeah, Jen, do you want to start with that one and tell me where you get your ideas and how?
JENNIFER RUIZ: Yeah I think initially, when I thought about writing a book, I had this big romantic idea that it would be an Elizabeth Gilbert type of novel, and it would talk about all my travel adventures, and people would just die to hear these stories. And then I realized, my friends like my stories, yeah, but for the most part, they really care more about how they can benefit from this. So what are the tips that I have for them?
And I realized that what my audience was looking for, rather than just travel entertainment in that sense, was more travel knowledge, travel tips. And so I started just asking questions. What is it that you want to know? And I polled my audience, I polled my readers, I polled my email list, what is it that’s stopping you from traveling more? Because I knew I wanted to write a book related to travel. That’s what my website is in. So what is it that’s stopping you? What’s your biggest pain point? And trying to identify that for them.
With that, I identified three pain points. Number one was money, so I did my first book on how to get cheap flights, essentially. I put “affordable flights” because people didn’t like the word “cheap.” I’m doing polls this whole time, every time. A title thing, I’m just asking people for their comments, feedback the whole way, and it’s really helpful.
The second problem I identified was people didn’t want to travel by themselves. People didn’t want to travel solo, especially women who were maybe in their late 20s, professionally established, having the means to travel now, but not necessarily the friends with the same time off. That was my audience there that I nailed in that sense. And then the third problem was time off to travel, from work.
JENNY GUY: Yeah.
JENNIFER RUIZ: So I just did three books based off of the problems that people told me were their biggest problems, And I realized that it wasn’t necessarily about the story that I wanted to tell– although I could still tell it, in a way, through those mediums– but more about what people needed to know. And that’s where you get the sweet spot for actually monetizing a book.
JENNY GUY: Fantastic. I love that, And I love the advice about crowdsourcing and talking to your people, that you already know. You have that built-in audience. And Valerie, to you?
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, so I actually had ideas for books pretty early on after starting Space Tourism Guide. Because I would say to complement what Jen has said, that answering a user’s question or addressing their pain point. The other one is organizing the information in a way they can’t find somewhere else. A lot of books, a lot of things that I would say bloggers don’t realize, that you could take these articles you’ve written, and by simply putting them in one place, you can unlock value that people are willing to pay for.
So for example, I write these Stargazing City Guides. And with very little additional work, I could take those city guides, add in more places around each state, and write a book about stargazing in Washington State or in the Western US so that people who are traveling in the region could have that information.
Another example from, more generally, travel is, if you’re an expert in a certain destination, you can write your own guidebook. Especially if you’re self-publishing, it’s really easy to keep them up-to-date, depending on which route you go and who you’re publishing through. Submitting second editions and third editions is not as complicated as people realize when you’re self-publishing once you figure out the steps. Like Jen said, It’s not this great labyrinth. It’s actually meant to be pretty simple because, of course, self-publishing, Amazon has developed tools to do that because that helps them. They want authors. They want more books. They want people to come to them to get every answer.
It’s kind of like courses, too. A lot of times you find a good blogging course with someone who just took all that information and organized it really nicely for you. You could do the same thing and put it in a book or ebook format based on whatever knowledge that you have that people would be willing to pay for.
JENNY GUY: And we are actually going to talk about courses in a couple of weeks, which is awesome, but it’s another excellent revenue stream that we’re going to be discussing. But I love the idea that a lot of bloggers don’t have a grasp on how much of this work they’ve already done, that’s already done for them. It’s not like you sit down with the proverbial blank typewriter and the blank sheet of paper, and you’re trying to–
Which leads right into my next question, which is, how is writing a book different from all the writing you’ve done for your website? And I know that a lot of it, as you just said, is synthesizing the work that you’ve done, but what steps do you then take to make it into a book? And I’ll start with you, Valerie.
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, the first thing that I do and that was done for me by my editor at Lonely Planet was I make a flat plan.
JENNY GUY: OK.
VALERIE STIMAC: And the flat plan is basically this– it’s a spreadsheet the way I do them, and each cell is a page in the book. And so what you’re trying to do is figure out how many pages are in the book and what’s on each page, very roughly. And then you start to fill in the gaps.
You just say, OK, well I’ve already written this chapter on booking flights to Alaska. That’s something that I write a lot about. So maybe I need a chapter on finding good hotel deals, and that’s going to be this many pages. And you just start to fill them in, and then you can see what you’ve already written that you can repurpose and what you’re going to need to write.
And then I like to make it a kind of puzzle. I’m just filling in the gaps, and I just take it piece by piece and fill in those gaps. And it’s not so much I’m sitting down to do a NaNoWriMo and write 100,000 words. This week, I’m writing that 5,000-word chapter, and then that’s my task, is that I’m not writing a book, I’m writing a chapter. And that makes it like writing a blog post. It makes it life easier.
JENNY GUY: Absolutely. I love that. I love that. And just to kind of– how do you keep a continuity going through the whole thing? Is that a concern when you’re dealing with it more? You’re pulling some from your site and then adding some in. Is there a strategy that you employ to keep the continuity going?
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, I would certainly pass anything I’d already published through my own editor lens. But I might do that at the very end. I might do that as the final pass, or just to get the book done, the first draft done. Because that’s the biggest hurdle, is getting that first draft finished. I would say OK, look, I’ve already written that section. Just put it in there. Put it in the document, and mark it in italics, and come back to that in two weeks when everything else is done, and read it as though you’re trying to make it cohesive from end to end now that you have all the pieces lined up.
JENNY GUY: Yeah, absolutely. OK, Jen, same question to you.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Something similar, but just not as extensive of a process. I just do my rough outline of what are the chapters, what are the sub-chapters that I want to cover, and then filling in the content. I’ve seen bloggers with table of contents and 5,000-word articles on their, you know, magnus opus for this amazing location. And they have all of this content already written in bulk. And really, you can start selling a book for $0.99 at 5,000 to 10,000 words. So if you have an extensive guide like that to a city, that could be a $0.99 book that you have permanently $0.99, permanently on that special list of $0.99-only books that’s getting in new readers that just want something to test out and if they like you. So that’s a good way to dip your toes in it without necessarily having to do this big grand compilation.
But I fill in the blanks, and I go through, and I’ll put an introduction. I’ll put in some bonuses, some things that will lead them to my site. So when you’re self-published, you want to make sure that you have a link to your website before the fold in the free preview of Amazon, whatever bonus content that you’re offering. I have a bonus page where, once people are in the free preview, they can click. So A, it brings me traffic, and then B, if they download any of the things, it gets them on my email list. And that’s all coming before they even purchase my book, just from a preview free on Amazon.
So those are specific places where I know I have to work on. So I have the intro, I have some kind of lede or something that I have to do to get people interested to go further. Then the chapters, usually I’ll break it down into– all my books have had, maybe, five to six chapters and then a set of bonuses. And then the chapters are broken down into four or five subsections.
I think it’s really not that hard when you’re in nonfiction. I think when you’re in fiction, it’s a lot more difficult, because you’re sitting here being like– I don’t know how J.K. Rowling– like, somebody picked up a cup in chapter 3 of book 1, and then in book 7, chapter 9, it came out to be the most important cup ever. And I could never have that kind of continuity with a story. So I think in non-fiction, you’re really very lucky, because it’s just a matter of filling in the content and getting right information out to people. And then you can start to see, oh, well, maybe I already covered [AUDIO OUT]. This is redundant here, let me change this outline a little bit, and edit as you go along. But there isn’t as much of a problem with continuity as there would be if you’re telling a story of some sort.
JENNY GUY: Right, absolutely. And so, to follow up, since you’ve written several of these books, would you say that it’s formulaic now? Do you have a really strong, this is how I do this, and this is the way– obviously, the content is changing up, but is there a strong outline that you have come up with that works for you?
JENNIFER RUIZ: Yes, and that’s partially also because I have been– so I’ve been figuring this all out as I go, doing all this on a budget. And so after I paid for the first person to format the book well, I was like, well, I could just delete and fill in the blanks with new content, and then it’s already formatted, and I don’t have to pay to have it formatted twice. So that’s part of the reason why I kept that format.
But I’m hoping to venture out into other things, and I’m learning as I go, still. Which is kind of the fun thing about this job and being an online creator, is that there’s always new things. It’s never mundane, like law. So it’s really wonderful, and I’m trying to learn how to do things better at this point.
But moving forward, I’d love to have, maybe, some pictures in the books a little bit more. That can be a little bit more costly when it comes to printing, and so I’ve been careful with that. Even just having black-and-white versus color ink is a problem in terms of what the revenues are and how much more it’s going to cost to print that book. So it may not be cost-effective for you, especially depending on your audience and the price point you want to keep it in. That’s why you see all these photo books and they’re, like, $50 photo books. And you’re like, oh my god, that’s a lot of money for a book. But they pay a lot of money for that printing to have these quality, shiny, amazing photos. And that’s what costs that money.
So I think it’s just different challenges moving forward that I’d like to work on it, like formatting the books in different ways, like maybe doing something besides nonfiction, like adding different images. And those are all things that I look forward to exploring in the future.
JENNY GUY: Good. That’s great. And so Jen just give us a little bit there. What types of things might you be interested in looking into in the future, Valerie? Are there certain things you’re wanting to add, maybe, next time around?
VALERIE STIMAC: Well, Dark Skies, that’s technically Lonely Planet’s book, so that’ll be up to them. But I definitely foresee– and actually, as Jen’s talking, I’m like, oh my gosh, I need to do this for my travel site. I’ve got all this information that I’ve just never– so I always thought you had to write a general travel guide, but whatever niche you happen to be, you could write a very specific $0.99 guide for that one subset of your audience. I can imagine that in cooking or in parenting, there’s this one little lesson that you’re somehow this expert on because you live it, and you could create your first book and start to learn these lessons that way.
In Dark Skies, I could see us expanding the space tourism section. That’s a huge opportunity. Rocket launches is a huge opportunity as more countries start to do their own launches, start to get into the space game. Personally, when I look to self-publishing, I really want to get my stargazing guides out. There is no one else in the market doing that. So in addition to being convenient and having it all in one place, it would also be providing a product that, right now, nobody else has done. And I’ve already done so much of the work that it’s worth it for me to take the last few steps and get the book out the door.
And I would love– I’ve actually totally started to look outside of book publishing already, too, because I think as bloggers, we realized diversify, diversify.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
VALERIE STIMAC: And so I’m looking at podcasting and storytelling through podcasts, because I know that for me, I’m not a fiction writer, I’m maybe not the most compelling storyteller in writing, but I have a good idea for a podcast that I think is storytelling-based and uses these lessons of how you organize stories and how you promote the stories you’ve written. So I don’t even know if you’re having another session on podcasting and impromptu podcasting, but that’s the other one I’m looking at.
JENNY GUY: We actually had a session on podcasting during Teal Talk during the year, and it’s on our YouTube channel. So let’s post our YouTube channel, just in case people want to check out, and let’s post our podcasting Teal Talk. That’s perfect.
So let’s talk about time, because you’re running a website that you’re still posting on. Both of you are. Valerie, you’re running two. So in addition to writing on those websites, you’re then creating content for your books. How do you balance that out? How long does it take to write a book? I know that this is probably the– and getting the lawyer answer from Jen, it depends. But how long did it take you to go through your process, and how did you balance your websites with your writing of the book?
VALERIE STIMAC: You want to go first, Jen?
JENNIFER RUIZ: Sure. So at least my first book, I was just kind of whenever the mood struck me. Because sometimes you get– if you’re a writer, you know. Every now and then, the Muses come out of nowhere, and you’re like, oh my god, it’s flowing. And then other days, you’re just like, I don’t speak the English. Like, what is happening?
So really, I would just kind of go with the surge. I would try to write a little bit every day, but how much I wrote would vary. And then, what really put a fire under me was that I missed a trip to Spain because, like a dummy, I had actually left my passport in my home, which was two hours away from the airport.
JENNY GUY: No.
JENNIFER RUIZ: And I had gotten such a cheap flight that they couldn’t reschedule me because I paid so little for the fare. So I missed that flight, and I was steaming driving back to my apartment. I mean, I was pissed off, OK? And I was like, goddamn it. Excuse me, my language for Facebook.
JENNY GUY: That’s OK.
JENNIFER RUIZ: I’m still angry. I’m back in the moment now. But I was like, I’m not letting this weekend go to waste. If I’m not in Spain, so help me, something’s coming out of this weekend, and it’s going to be my book. One way or another, come Monday, that book’s going to be finished.
And I just hunkered down, and in my anger, I wrote as much as I could. And by the end of that weekend, it was done. So I think it can be done in a weekend if you have the proper impetus. I think it can be done in a month if you are regular with your writing. Writing 500 to a thousand words a day, you can really get a good chunk of writing done. 30 days, a thousand words, that’s 30,000 words. There’s your book right there, especially at a non-fiction.
So it can be done. I think the key is just pushing yourself to write and carving out the time where you’re most productive, I learned very quickly that I do not write well at night. At night, I do not want to think. I just want to have something alcoholic and watch TV. I don’t want to have to be creative. My brain shuts down at that point.
So I try to get all my writing done before noon, knowing that the more time passed, the less steam I would have. And changing my tasks around. So maybe doing that first, and doing something else, something mindless like social media promotion of my posts, or things like that, at night, when I didn’t need the brain to work. And that helped.
So I got it done. Overall, my first book I got done within, I’d say, about three months from the time I officially started kicking around the idea, with that last weekend really being the home stretch. And then my second book was a smaller $0.99 book. That one I got done within a month. Maybe even less than that, because it was a smaller book. And then the third one was larger. I would say that one took me about two months or so, because at this point, I had already gotten it down to a science.
JENNY GUY: And how did you balance that out with Jen on a Jet Plane? Were you still publishing content there?
JENNIFER RUIZ: I was. And so it’s been tough. And what I’ve actually done, sometimes, now to give myself a little bit of a break, I repurpose content from the first book. So I had so many amazing tips that I put in the first book that if I just take a page out of the first book, I can make that into its own blog post. I don’t really have to make up the stuff again. I just reword a little bit.
So I’m kind of plagiarizing myself, but it interests people. So I had a section on– I have one chapter on budget airlines. I’ve just published a post just recently– this is now– but I just published a post on 10 budget airlines still worth flying with, mainly based off of my list that I had in the book. I just repurposed that content.
And I think we all worry because we want to have everything be so original and so different, but absolutely no one is reading every single word you post and being like, oh my god, can you believe that Jen said this again? Nobody. That is just –
JENNY GUY: Your mom.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Not even.
VALERIE STIMAC: Not even Mom.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Not even your mom.
VALERIE STIMAC: Not even Mom.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Not even.
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, I 100% agree with that, that if you are using your own blog content, I don’t even consider it plagiarizing. It is your copyrighted material. You own it. You can do whatever you want with it. That is yours. Repurpose it, stick it on billboards, tweet it, put it in a book, do whatever. It’s yours, definitely.
I was just trying to pull up– Dark Skies was a little bit unconventional. So because Lonely Planet is a traditional publishing house, they have a very strict schedule when they commission a book, and when they expect that draft in, and when they need it done so they go to the designers, and the printers, blah, blah, blah. So I had 10 weeks to write the book.
JENNY GUY: Wow.
VALERIE STIMAC: And as Jen said, I learned that it had to be the first words I gave. So I don’t know if anyone else will feel me on this, but I only have so many words in a day that I can write. There is no set number, but I know when I hit that limit. And if I didn’t give my words to the book, I didn’t have them to give later in the day. So it was always the first thing I did when I sat down to write each day.
And if I had extra words, I was writing for myself. I was writing for freelance clients. I was trying to give that extra energy. But usually, I didn’t have those extra words. I had spent myself. So you wouldn’t actually know this, but in the 10 weeks that I was working on the book, I think I was publishing about once every two weeks, which is about 10 times less frequent. I publish, like, twice a week. So it was substantially less than I normally do, I guess 25% of what I would normally publish.
And I just gave myself permission to not feel bad about that. I had a deadline, and it wasn’t even my deadline. And I’d heard these horror stories that if you don’t make your deadline with Lonely Planet, you get blacklisted, and you never get any work again. So I just motivated myself tremendously. I found a really, really good album. My recommended album, and it won’t work for everybody, is Album Title Goes Here by deadmau5. I could put that on– and it’s, like, trance, heavy trance music– and I could just let the words flow.
When I write my own books, I think I’m going to need to be the same way. So I haven’t actually written any more self-published, but I think that I’ve learned now that if there’s no deadline, like everything, I’m just going to let that deadline stretch. It’s going to take as much time as I give it. And so when I sit down, I’m going to actually try and get ahead on blog posts so that I can basically pause writing anything else and just focus on getting those books done.
Because if you’ve identified a market opportunity for a book, if your audience is asking for if, if they’re saying, look, we want to pay you for this information, and you already have your site, it’s already making you money because presumably you’re on Mediavine or you’re trying to get on Mediavine– I know there’s lots of folks who watch this that are trying to get to Mediavine levels– once you hit that and your site’s doing its own thing, you can step back and say, OK, keep going in the right direction. I’m going to do this other thing because I need to build out this other part of my business.
And the only way, personally, I can do that is if I don’t write anything else for anyone else. That’s hard, because I like to give my audience new things, but it’s what I think is the only way that I can– like Jen, in that weekend, you’re like, I’m going to get it done. I have to get it done, because if I don’t do it now, I’ll never finish it.
JENNY GUY: I think that that is great advice, and I completely feel you guys. I’m not authors like you are, but in terms of writing, whether it was papers for school, or blog posts now, or whatever it is, you have the minute where you’re like, I must write this minute. Everything is happening, it’s happening right now. And then when you’re there, you’re like, and I’m saturated, and I’m writing the same thing over and over again. It’s terrible. Nothing sounds good. I need to stop. I need to just stop. So then–
VALERIE STIMAC: And– sorry– I’ve found that’s the case. And I can imagine that there’s some people who watch this that their full-time jobs do that to them, where their full-time role takes their words. And so if you have flexibility, like when I was blogging and working full time for someone else, I would go in an hour later and stay an hour later so I could have that hour to myself in the morning to be able to write whatever I was writing. Otherwise, I didn’t have it. I didn’t have it for myself. And that wasn’t fair to me and my blog.
JENNY GUY: Yep, that’s excellent advice. So you guys both– and there’s different ends of the spectrum, and I know that there’s pros and cons to each. So one of the biggest debates I’ve heard in all of the book publishing and the people I’ve heard talk about it is to self-publish or not to self-publish. So let’s talk about that.
First of all, tell me what it is to self-publish. What does that mean, versus working with a publisher? So maybe Jen, can you talk about self-publishing? Valerie, can you talk about working with a publisher? Does that work? Great. Jen, start out for us.
JENNIFER RUIZ: So self-publishing means that you put the book together from start to finish. You are responsible for the content. You’re responsible for the editing.
And you can outsource some of these tasks. So you can hire an editor. You can hire a cover designer. You don’t have to sit there and draw your cover, but you’re responsible for administering the process that is publishing your book. And that requires you to be the kind of person that likes to have a say in everything. So if you like to have full control over what your cover looks like, self-publishing is for you. No one else will have the red pen over you. The final choice is yours. It’s up to you what you do with that book, and it’s great because you have complete freedom.
And especially for a lot of authors that have already established themselves with traditional publishing companies and have a readership, they find that it’s so easy to transition to self-publishing. They do a lot of the same things already, and then they make way more money because you get a substantial more cut of the profit. You just pay Amazon their small percentage for printing the book, and then you get, like, 70% of the book’s profits. Whereas, when you’re with a publishing company, it’s kind of split out amongst the people that all took part in making that book come to life.
And self-publishing is also really unique. People need to take in mind that you are responsible for marketing 100%. And so that’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. So again, if you’re one of those authors that has an established base, you already know you have all your readers, you know they’re going to buy your book, why would you bother paying somebody 90% of the profits when you’re bringing in 99% of the readers? And so it just doesn’t make sense. And that’s why a lot of some of the traditional, more established authors have switched over.
But when you’re starting out, you may be nervous, and you may be thinking like, oh my god, I don’t know if anybody’s going to even read my book. I wouldn’t even know where to start with book promotion. And it’s not easy. It’s a whole other world, book promotion. Like how you get book, reviews, how you get beta readers, how you get into book fairs, how you get into libraries. I got into my first library, and oh my god, that took so much work, and I’m not even in the travel section. They put me somewhere with airplanes. And so I’m like, this is so hard. Like, come on. Like, this is not a book about airplane engineering, this is a book about cheap flights. I don’t understand.
So it’s a lot of work, and you have to learn it. And you have to figure out what the problem is. And you have to be the person that makes the phone calls. It all comes down to you. I’m super type A. I love being in control of everything. So that works out really well for me. But I think it could be anxiety-inducing for some other people.
But I will just note that for people who think that these kind of big publishers are the end-all game, like I’m going to get the book deal and then that’s it. They’re going to promote me, I’m going to have a book tour– they put in a lot of their promotion efforts into celebrities and people that they know already have big audiences. So they’re not going to set you up on the same multi-city book tour that Rachel Hollis is on, you know? It’s going to be still, to a certain extent, up to you to get the readership and people interested. And that’s why these publishing companies pick people with a big audience to begin with, hoping that you can have that to rely on to make your sales.
So I think self-publishing is a lot of work, but it can be substantially more financial reward for the people that have it in them to really pull a book through from start to finish.
JENNY GUY: Awesome. Valerie? The other side of that coin.
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, traditional publishing through a publisher is very, very different. And a lot of what Jen said is true. So I don’t know if you’ve looked at publishers, but you’ve got it spot on. So I can’t speak for every publisher, but typically, when you are working with a traditional publisher, they are paying you. Probably just for your words, possibly for your photos, but you should be paid separately for those, because they’re two different types of content. And they pay for every piece of the book, so if they’re paying for words and they’re paying for photos, they’re going to pay you for both of those.
And then it’s not really yours anymore. It is and It isn’t. And it’s up to the publisher to decide how much you’re involved, will you be re-contracted for any updates, especially if you’re writing nonfiction, and especially, some of these industries change regularly like travel. But it’s up to them to decide that.
So for example, Dark Skies have been a little bit unusual for Lonely Planet in that it’s a book with my name on the cover. And that sounds really fancy, but if you ever look at Lonely Planet books hearing you are going to have names on the cover. That’s not the typical book they publish. They typically produced roundups. They work with multiple authors.
And Jenny, you and I were talking about how I’ve been contributing little pieces to other books. None of those have my name on the cover. This book has my name on the cover. And so Lonely Planet has sort of leaned back toward me saying, you brought us this. This is your idea. This is your child. We are happy to help, but we need you in on it, too.
And so they are not– Lonely Planet, at least, they don’t do book tours. They don’t do a lot of promotion. They’ve done something that they traditionally do when they promote books, but anything extra is on me. So I am, in some ways, just a hybrid. I’m the one pitching podcasts, who has to do interviews. I’m the one pitching my local media to become an expert. I’m running a social campaign to promote the book. I’m doing giveaways of advanced copies. They’re also doing some of those things, but I’m doing it, too.
I’m actually really lucky. I have a friend, and I’m just going to give her a little plug. She’s not in our industry at all. Her name’s Katy Rose Pool. She got a very, very large fiction book deal. I believe it’s Hoighton Mifflin. I might be wrong on that publishing house, so forgive me if I’m wrong. But Katie has a book coming in September. We used to worked together at a company I worked for, and we both got book deals within a month of each other.
Hers is a very traditional book deal. So huge splash campaigns leading into it. Tons of presale. They are leading with her forward because they believe that she is the author, the face of this universe that they’re trying to promote. And they’re talking film rights and all this stuff. And fiction is that whole other world where they do that sort of thing. She’s going to Comic-Con. I’m like, Comic-Con sounds great, but I’m just me. Like, that’s not what they do with travel people.
So there’s a real range, and it depends a lot on your publisher, too, as to how do they normally promote books? And is the book that they’ve decided to get from you going to follow the mold? Is it going to break the mold? Is it going to be somewhere in between? And that’s going to vary a lot. And it should, also, be in your contract that you negotiate if you are working with a publisher.
JENNY GUY: Excellent. We are going to talk about contracts in just a moment. But do either of you have an agent? Is that a thing that you’ve ever dipped your toe into? Can you give an opinion on that? How do you navigate proposals? How do you get out there and start? How did you land Lonely Planet? How did that become a possibility for you?
VALERIE STIMAC: So as I mentioned– or you mentioned– I freelance write. I’m a freelance writer. And what I would say is if you are very keen on getting a book deal with a traditional publisher, start freelance writing in the topics you want to write about in your book. Those portfolio pieces cross the desks or screens of more people than you ever realize.
The way I was invited to the– there was literally a room, an actual room in the Lonely Planet office, which is not how you would typically propose a book. But Lonely Planet does actual meetings in person to brainstorm book ideas. I was invited because I live in Oakland, California and their office is in Oakland, California. So they brought me in because I was physically present and I was able to be in the room to propose my idea. That is not traditional, I would say, by any standards of any industry.
But the fact that I had built this portfolio, that there was all this evidence, not only could I write for myself– this is sort of the other thing. You want to work with the publisher, they’re going to give you an editor. If you can’t work with editors, if you can’t prove you’re capable of working with an editor, that is a risk to the publisher because they don’t know whether you’re a primadonna writer who won’t take feedback, and they’re going to have to commandeer your draft, or kill it. Or they don’t know.
If you have a set of clips in your industry that show you’ve written for editors, they’ve been happy with work, the quality of your work off-site, off your own site, is high quality, you’re building this case that you are the right person to hire for the book. Because that’s really– they’re hiring you to write the book. They’re going to pay for it, too, which is great. But that’s what you’re doing, so you need to build your portfolio to get the invite to the right meeting, or the name of the right person to send that proposal email to.
JENNY GUY: Absolutely. And I think that there’s definitely, for myself personally, a misconception that once you land the book deal, it’s done. I did it, I’m the great author. I’m going to be Stephen King. And it sounds like there’s quite a few more steps in the process.
So I also want to talk a little bit about promotion. You guys have mentioned several steps, and a lot of them sound very foreign to anyone who– it’s not an easy transition or an intuitive transition from blogging when you’re talking about beta readers, when you’re talking about book tours, when you’re talking about all those things. So talk to me a little bit about that. Jen, will you start with that?
JENNIFER RUIZ: Sure. Promotion, I think, is the most important part. I’ve said this quote at my WITS. seminar. I said Robert Kiyosaki, it’s just always stuck with me. He’s getting interviewed by a woman who was a master’s in fine arts, an amazing writer. Everybody just thinks that she’s amazing. But she’s sitting there interviewing him, and she’s thinking, what is it that you have that I don’t have? Why are you successful and I’m not? And he just goes the and he said, well, it’s called the best selling book, not the best written book.
And at the end of the day, Fifty Shades of Gray had so many spelling errors in it. It was written horribly, and it sold so well. So it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter, but your content is secondary to your sales, unfortunately. That’s just the way it is with books. And so if you know how to sell something, that is what’s going to make you a best seller.
So I just started learning everything I could about how to sell. So instead of being a brick and mortar tour, I did a podcast tour. The first month, I had about, maybe, two dozen or so different podcast interviews that I set up. They all aired at different times, so in my mind, I was going to have a different podcast interview every single day of that month, and it was going to line up so pretty. No. I have an interview coming out of in August, and my book launched in March.
So it was a mess, but it was great because some of those podcasts still get me exposure. People listen to podcasts, they’re evergreen. So when people like an episode, they’re going to go back and see what other popular episodes are. And I have people– I’ve done some big travel podcasts– Zero To Travel, Extra Pack of Peanuts, things like that– and people find me through these podcasts and contact me– so, podcasts tour.
Amazon itself has a ranking system. And the thing is, I think a lot of people put a push on immediate sales. Like, OK, my book just launch and get everybody and their mother that I know to buy my book, I’m gonna sell 3,000 copies, I’m gonna be a best seller, life is gonna be sweet. But then you do that, and then Amazon’s like, something’s fishy because 3,000 people bought your book yesterday, and today, zero people bought it, so something is wrong. And their algorithm is going to pick up on it, and it’s going to punish you for it.
So you have to know how Amazon’s algorithm works. Space out your book sales. So maybe you want to push sales to your Facebook group one day and go really hard on Instagram the next week. But it’s over the first 30 days. So how you do in the first 30 days is going to determine where you rank forever on the Amazon algorithm.
JENNY GUY: I know.
JENNIFER RUIZ: And so many people get this wrong. And this is just book marketing. This is what it is. It’s just take some time to do some research, and do it right. And if you pace out– let’s say you have those 3,000 sales versus having it on the day that you launch, you have 10 sales a day for 30 days, you’re going to rank really highly. Amazon’s going to see consistent traffic from your books. It’s going to see people are interested. If your reviews are being left sporadically through there, you’re going to do well.
And once a book ranks highly– for Amazon, ranking highly, I would say, is anywhere from 100,000 up. So from the first most popular book by Amazon to the hundred thousandth most popular book on Amazon. I think those ranking well. You’re still showing up within the top 20 lists when people click on a category, and they don’t have to go look for you extra in other places. If your book is number 1,800,342, nobody’s ever going to find your book.
And I think even people, sometimes, with traditional publishers, they don’t understand this because they think, somebody else will do this for me. So for anybody who’s writing a book, you have to do this. And all you have to do is– It’s just so magic– it’s just a matter of spacing out your sales and reviews and getting it so that within those 30 days, you have robust, consistent results that Amazon can be like, this is a book that’s worth promoting. They put you at the top of their list, and then people are still finding you at the top a year, two years, three years later.
JENNY GUY: And you said the first 30 days, and that’s what determines your ranking on Amazon. First of all, when you were saying algorithm on Amazon, I was having shades and flashbacks of social media algorithms. And it sounds like it’s a very, very remarkably similar.
JENNIFER RUIZ: It’s so much worse.
JENNY GUY: Oh, no.
JENNIFER RUIZ: There’s so much to Amazon.
JENNY GUY: And everyone leaves.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Honestly, I’m still– I’m in a course with Kindlepreneur. His name is Dave Chesson, and he has a ton of books on it, researches on it. He helped me a lot when I was getting self-published, just all his stuff that he has. And I’m still on his course a year later, his AMS marketing course. And I get emails every week like, you’re only 60% through this. And I’m like, I’m really trying, but it’s so complicated, and it’s so–
JENNY GUY: My brain!
VALERIE STIMAC: The good thing here– so people have built really good resources about this. Some people, that’s what they have actually built their expertise in. So they sell books on Amazon about how to sell books on Amazon. This is a thing. There are tons and tons of resources.
The other advice that I would give is, I agree, it’s Lonely Planet book with my name on it, but I’m still promoting it. I don’t assume they’re– what’s interesting is I don’t get royalties for this particular book, just the way that they structured my contract. And that was fine with me. I had people take a look and tell me that that made sense. However, I’m still vested in that book doing well because it has my name on it. I want my name to be showing up high on the list.
The other thing I would do is see if you know anyone, or ask in the Facebook groups you’re part of in your community, does anybody know a book PR person?
JENNY GUY: Uh-huh.
VALERIE STIMAC: It may be worth $1,000 for a two-month contract with that person for very light PR and consulting for you, especially if you know your book is going to make you that money back, to get somebody whose job it is to know all of these secrets, and know all the tricks, and have the right introductions. That may be well worth the investment for your book, because once you get it established in Amazon, it’s there, and it keeps making you money for a heck of a lot longer than that 30-day launch window.
So you can also– I mean, I took out a PR friend for a beer. I did the cheapest option possible, and she was very generous. She came up with a plan and everything. I was like, this is worth way more than a beer. I owe you five more beers at least.
But that’s another way you can sort of bootstrap your marketing and your PR. Because the other thing that’s important is PR and marketing are different in this case. Marketing is giveaways, and social media, and email lists, and PR is like, can you get articles? Can you give interviews? Can you get on TV as an expert?
Those things also raise your profile as an author, and you can promote your book, or your book can be the thing that gets you on that media spot, whatever it is. Those public relations, press relations people have a totally different world that they work in, and that stuff is even harder to break into sometimes. So having someone help you with that can make a huge difference.
JENNY GUY: Another layer of complication. So I want to go ahead and I want to know you guys’ best resources so we can share those links. Jen, you mentioned one which I’m going to get one of my colleagues to share that. And then, when you think of best resources, where can people go?
JENNIFER RUIZ: I do think Kindlepreneur is a great resource for self-publishers. I don’t even know him, but he just has good stuff, and is very thorough. And he has a podcast. His name is Dave Chesson. Kindlepreneur, like entrepreneur. Kindlepreneur.
JENNY GUY: Oh, I’ve got it.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Yes, I figured may I’m not saying it clearly, but it’s witty. I would also recommend any of the podcasts, self-publishing podcasts.
And then, there’s a lot of really good tools. So Goodreads is good if you want to do a, giveaway if you are active on Goodreads, but it can be kind of complicated for people. So I would suggest getting it into Facebook promotion groups, things like that. I would suggest– one of my best kind of resources for cheap covers is a website called 99Designs. So I can pay 300 bucks for a cover that I have people bidding to get my design, and then I don’t end up getting stuck with one design I don’t like, like you would on Fiver, if you just picked one person.
So 99Designs, Kindlepreneur, all of the Facebook promotion groups like Free Kindle Books, whatever, get on all of them. And whenever your book launches, promote on all of them, because you never know who’s going to buy through that.
And another great website I’ll just mention, it’s called Adazing– like “amazing,” but with a D. And they’re great for book cover mockups. So you see all these images of books, and they’re somebody holding your book in a park, or somebody holding your book while sipping coffee. That’s a mockup. That’s a picture, and they just put your book cover in the placeholder. And everybody has those, but mockups can be hard to find them to look professional. So if you’re doing your own, Adazing is a great website for that.
JENNY GUY: Awesome, OK. Valerie, same to you.
VALERIE STIMAC: The one that I just found that I have on my to do list is a company called PR By The Book. So they position themselves, based on what I saw on their website, as working with authors at different levels of influence. So they have three tiers. There’s celebrity writers, people who are already a little bit established or have an audience– which, as a blogger, you probably fit in that category, and then people who have a good idea but have no audience built out. And they have different options of what they offer to help you market your book based on what level of influence you currently have.
And that’s really helpful if you have a topic you’re not an expert in, or if you have a topic that’s perfectly aligned with your book, or with your blog, or you’re maybe, actually, really well-known. There are travel bloggers I can think of that if they wrote a book, they would totally fit in that top tier. And that company will do the PR for that specific project.
And that’s the other thing that’s really interesting, is if you’re an author and you have all these other assets, you may get a PR person who wants to focus outside of the book. And at the end of the day, it’s the first 30 days, the first 60 days of book sales are so important to establishing the success of the book that you want to make sure that you keep them focused. And so PR By The Book is a great– I don’t know, I need to get a quote from them, but I think that’s who I’m going to go with because I want someone who’s with me, leading me, telling me where to go.
I went to WITS, the Women In Travel Summit, and I attended a talk on PR there. So I’ve really focused on the PR side because I want to leverage the book to get more expertise and more media placements, because I think that’s this nice cycle. you can start to build your personal presence and brand through.
So I’ve been really focused on PR. I’m reading PR blogs. I don’t have any favorites right now, but I trust the marketing machine of Lonely Planet to do its job, and I’m going to focus on the PR side, because that’s the area that is different about my book, too, that they are not necessarily thinking about the same way.
JENNY GUY: Love those tips. So let me just make it real, real plain. Your book is getting ready to launch on Amazon, whether it’s self-published or through a publisher. What three things do you need to have in place well before that book launches? Or give me times. Maybe it’s not well before. Maybe it’s fine if I get it in under the wire, but the book is going live tomorrow at noon. What do I need to have in place? Start with Jen.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Your launch team, your team of people. This is where you get your friends, your readers, whoever really loves you and wants to push for you. They need to be on a separate team that you can reach them separately, just them, and use them to help you promote.
So you’re not selling to your launch team. You’re not asking your launch team to please buy my book. They should already have your book for free as an advance review copy because you love them that much, and you value their opinion that much, and you’re hoping that they’re going to leave you a review in return.
And they should be ready to help promote your book to other people because they love you that much and think other people would really benefit from your book, and they feel invested in it because you’ve worked with them over the last couple of months to put this book together. So they had a say in your cover. They had a say in the chapter names, all of that. Your launch team is number one.
Beyond that, I would say if you’re launching tomorrow, having your promotions set up. So what it is that you’re going to promote. If you’re going to do a giveaway on Goodreads. If you’re going to do a Bookbub ad. Bookbub is really expensive. It can be, like, $600 to $1,000 but it’s cost-per-click, and it gets you tons of sales. So that’s a good– you know, what are you going to do for marketing? What’s your promotion schedule like?
And I think those are your two most important things. So the people who are supporting you, and how you are going to promote it yourself.
JENNY GUY: Do you guys have any blog posts on your site talking about who would be a great person for your launch team? Because we’re almost out of time, and I want Valerie to have a chance to share that. But have you guys written any posts about writing?
JENNIFER RUIZ: I’m working on putting a whole new section in the website about that after giving some of these speeches, so I will link and send you any links I have, Jenny.
JENNY GUY: Thank you so much, Jen. OK, Valerie, from you?
VALERIE STIMAC: Yeah, the first thing I would have– the last-minute thing I would have ready, is a press release. So no matter who you’re pitching, this weird thing called a press release– and you can google how to write these and how to write them well– is this one sort of certificate you need to be able to prove that you have.
So if you write your– this is at least where you can get really creative. Like let’s say you wrote this book. It’s going live tomorrow. You could send a press release to your colleges, your postgraduate school, your high school, your local newspaper, all these little places that look for news, and it’s the press release that says, like, hey, this person we know wrote this book.
You could send it to fellow bloggers, like people you know that have been supporting you in the background, and say, hey, not sure– if you can just give this a shout, like, here’s all the information. The press release just organizes everything for people. It gives them quotes, it gives them links, it gives them the visual assets. So it’s all in one place that they can get to.
And press releases are kind of intimidating, but when you build a good template and a good formula, and then you build out your hit list of everybody you want to email, you’d be shocked at how many people will take what– they just like, oh, great. She gave me everything I need, and I can promote it tomorrow without having to think about it. Because they are at 9:00 PM, and they don’t want to be using their brains. They want to just schedule whatever’s going on Facebook tomorrow.
The other thing that I’m doing– I agree with Jen, I’m going to have a week-by-week promotion schedule leading into the launch and coming after the book is officially live. Because there are some things Lonely Planet’s doing, there are some things I want to do to keep people interested and to– Once the book is physically in my hands, then I can start to be like, no, I really am a publisher. I have these advance copies, but here’s the real thing.
And then lastly, I would say– I’m just looking at my list, actually, because I’m working on this right now. And this is– could be a little bit careful, but make sure that your friends and family have a link to buy it, right? This sounds kind of like you might miss it. And they could be in your army of promotion people, but I haven’t sent ARC copies, advance reader copies, to my friends and family because– it’s actually my advance reader copies from Lonely Planet are not in color, and I want my friends and family to have the good ones in color.
So having a plan for your friends and family, because they are going to be so proud of you that they’re going to call your grandma, and your grandma’s going to call your aunts and uncles, and then all the cousins are going to find out, and your best friend’s going to tell their friend at work, like, oh, my best friend from college wrote this book. And you’ll get that word of mouth started. Making sure that, hey, today’s the day. Here’s my Amazon link.
Be careful if you use your affiliate link, because Amazon is very particular about having friends and family purchase through your link. So you may want your closest friends and family, you don’t get to affiliatize, but your distant reaches can use the affiliate link. And that’s something you need to make sure you just understand who you’re promoting and which link you’re sharing. But those people, on the day you launch, are very, very ardent, vocal supporters. And if you didn’t already give them a copy, that’s the day they should be buying a copy. They should be the first, easiest push. Not a hard sell at all.
JENNY GUY: That is fantastic advice. You guys, so we just got a comment from Karen…She said, even though this is not my blog type, these ladies had excellent info to share. You both have passion and intelligence about writing, and you made it interesting and fun to listen to the subject. Thank you, Jennifer, and Valerie, and Mediavine for hosting this live.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Thank you.
VALERIE STIMAC: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: I could not agree more. You guys have been incredible. This has been a jam-packed hour. We have links galore in the comments. We had so much to cover, and you guys gave us such a great overview. I hope that you’ll both keep writing about writing and share those resources so people can learn more from your expertise. Keep speaking at conferences because you’re both fantastic.
And we wish you both incredible luck, with your Dark Skies coming out officially in September. Jen, with your move, and your trip to Grand Rapids, and of course, with the Apollo thing, that’s so exciting. Thank you ladies for being here.
Next week, everybody, we are going to be talking about product creation. I clicked into the wrong window, product sales. So we’ve got Chloe Macintosh of Boxwood Avenue and Aaron Chase of Five Dollar Dinners. Both of them are very well experienced in creating products and selling those, and we’re going to be talking about that as another revenue stream that you need to be exploring into.
We are always grateful to have you here at the Summer Of Live. If you have any suggestions for us on more topics you’d like to see, post in the comments, send us an email, any way that you want. Tag me, I’m Jenny Guy. And we are so, so grateful to Valerie and Jen for being here. Thank you ladies so much.
JENNIFER RUIZ: Thank you.
VALERIE STIMAC: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: And everybody have a wonderful week.
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