Angela England is founder of Untrained Housewife and Blissfully Domestic. She has a successful writing career and has sold numerous ebooks based on her passions. You can find her at angengland.com and learn more from her webinars at Creative Profitability.
I interviewed her to learn how bloggers can be more successful in their own writing careers.
Q: Tell us how your writing career took off. What helped you succeed? What specific steps did you take to pitch and promote your first book, “Backyard Farming on an Acre”?
My career in online content creation started when my third child was born. It was no longer feasible to continue working outside the home and pay childcare costs.
I only needed about $250 a month to live on so I wrote for small content sites to build a portfolio of published clips. I didn't work at those low rates for very long, but used them to strategically build published work on the topics I wanted to pursue. As quickly as possible, I began applying for residual income positions where I could build ongoing income.
I had an agent for my first traditionally published book because they had contacted me directly as a result of a mutual friend and my blog. When it came to pitching my book, “Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less),” I worked with her to create a compelling Table of Contents and Summary. Agents can be helpful in getting direct contact with the publishers and discovering what kind of books they are looking for and are well worth the 15% fee. After my first book, the publishing houses reached out to me directly.
For my first book, the most important thing I did was work with friends and colleagues to establish book-signing opportunities, introductions to podcast interviewers, and book reviews on their sites, Amazon and Goodreads. I worked with other websites, blogging and community groups, etc. to create my overall “platform,” which caught the attention of a publisher. That also created a solid foundation from which to launch the book. When consumers compared my title to similar books, they would see lots of reviews, blog posts and positive feedback, which encouraged purchases.
Q: How can bloggers start creating a profitable ebook and turn that into a content creation career?
Writing an ebook is about finding the sweet spot between a unique, compelling title and a broad enough potential audience. Your book should be focused enough to catch the attention of a potential customer, but not so narrow that only a few people would want to buy it. This can be challenging at first, which is why I always make myself available to brainstorm topics and titles with my webinar students. It's probably the most important thing other than actually writing the book.
Book income is usually slow – your royalty checks from Amazon will start out small and sporadic. Once you get multiple titles published and establish a name for yourself, your income will pick up and build exponentially.
Q: How should bloggers be promoting their current or upcoming books to grow their careers?
Make your efforts serve double duty. If I’m writing a magazine article, I ask if I can include a quote from my book inside the article to advertise that book. I’ll also try to trade advertising with a friend or sign up former customers as affiliates to encourage them to promote my book.
Building your email list is very important. Once you have a compelling opt-in offer, promote it everywhere. For example, I offer the appendix pages of my book as a free download from my website. If someone purchased “Backyard Farming” and wanted to download the printables, they would be subscribed to my mailing list where they can learn about my next book. This gives the reader another way to connect with you.
If you don't have an email list yet, build one immediately. You will never say, “I started my newsletter list too soon and have too many subscribers.” I’ve written an article on how to create a free newsletter using Mailchimp.
Q: Tell us about print-on-demand (POD) and its advantages/disadvantages for new book authors.
Before POD, self-publishing authors had to purchase 500 or 1000 copies of their book and market, sell and distribute those themselves. This was cost-prohibitive for the average solopreneur or beginner.
POD allows authors to pay their book's printing costs after they've sold it. The cost of shipping comes out of the customer's purchase rather than your own pocket. You'll lose some profit that way but, without high upfront costs, more writers can try their hand at publishing.
The biggest disadvantage is that POD is still limited. Printing a book in full color can still be cost prohibitive. Another disadvantage is that a large percentage of the publisher's profits go into manufacturing costs. Instead of getting a huge bulk-printing discount, you pay a premium for publishing only one or two copies at a time.
The final disadvantage is the lack of checks and balances. With a traditional publishing house, multiple departments proof every book before it goes to print. I've seen some shabby self-published titles that never would have made it far at a publisher. When you are self-publishing, don't embarrass yourself and other self-published authors with a poor product. Create something truly professional and well crafted.
Q: What advice do you have for bloggers interested in pitching magazines and paid venues?
I look at it from the perspective of “what do I have to lose?” You can only go from “no articles” to the possibility of some published work when you query magazines or paid placements. If you think, “If I pitch 100 and two say yes, that's low,” remember that two paid placements is two more than you had last month. Use those articles to leverage more opportunities. The first few will be the toughest but it's all downhill from there.
I recommend authors don’t count acceptances and rejections. Instead, count your active queries. This is something I learned doing a “30 queries in 30 days” challenge with a friend. Because our goal was to put out a specific amount of queries daily, we were actively moving our freelance writing careers forward.
I know a writer who always has 10 active queries at any one time. When she gets a response to a query, she gives herself 24 hours to replace that query with another regardless of the outcome. She queries another magazine before starting articles she was accepted to write. This method keeps her focus is what she has control over, rather than the rejections.
Q: Any final advice to help bloggers transition into book authors?
Give your book an over-arching story or shape. Each section should have a unique purpose. I've seen some terrible ebooks that were simply cut and pasted blog posts with no transitions, no story arch, no formatting or direction. Even non-fiction works should have a direction to dictate the movement of the book.
This is why I always start with the Table of Contents. From there, I’m able to visualize the flow of the book. That's what is missing in many books by bloggers: they don't stretch their minds beyond the post-length form to think of the book as a whole.
Outlining the entire work ahead of time is beneficial in highlighting whether there are any gaps and helps bloggers visualize the transition into larger bodies of work.
I also recommend that you outsource areas you aren't as strong in to get your work done more quickly and create a product that is really professional. Then you can move on to the next title.
A special thanks to Angela for this eye-opening perspective on transitioning from a blogger to a writing professional!