CONFESSIONS OF A SELF-PUBLISHER
It’s a week since SUPERENGAGED launched, and what a week it’s been. I’ve been blown away by all the kind, supportive, personal words I’ve been sent from so many people, and this has been topped off by SUPERENGAGED bagging itself a heady 5-star rating and best seller tag on Amazon too. Wow.
A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone for all your support, both over the marathon of the last 18 months of writing and editing, and the sprint of the last few days too. I won’t lie, putting SUPERENGAGED out into the big, wide world was a heart-in-mouth moment, but all the notes of encouragement and positive book reviews have quickly turned that into a high.
SUPERENGAGED has been a year and a half in the making. Last week’s launch was the crescendo of an all-encompassing personal mission and a huge learning curve. I’ve never self-published before, and just like our agency journey, the road to launching SUPERENGAGED has been scattered with both high fives and choice words.
Along the way, we’ve learnt a tonne of stuff about this self-publishing lark that we wished we’d known at the beginning. So, we’re going to share it here, in the hope that we can help other novice, self-publishers out there. In the spirit of continuing the candour of the book, welcome to the “epic fails” and the “ideas we’re glad we didn’t say no to” of publishing SUPERENGAGED!
FIVE OF OUR EPIC FAILS
1. Abandoning edits in Word: Originally, I wrote the book in Word; it was then exported to InDesign and made beautiful. After that, all the rounds of edits and proof-reading changes were only made in the InDesign version. BIG MISTAKE. It turns out, we needed to upload a Word file to Amazon in order to create a Kindle-friendly version of the book, and so should have made all edits in both Word AND InDesign. Because the original Word draft was worlds away from the final InDesign draft, our oversight meant reformatting the entire book (page by page, all 400 of them…).
2. Assuming that “print ready” for our printers was the same as “print ready” for Amazon: The first time we uploaded the print ready file that has worked for our limited edition printers, L&S, to Amazon’s print on demand service, it showed FORTY SEVEN ERRORS. Gulp. This meant 20 hours of additional design edits that we hadn’t planned for. And more cursing.
3. Not costing up printing a colour version until three weeks before launch: We discovered that there’s a reason that most books aren’t printed in eye-catching technicolour. A hasty scour through some of our library of business books reassured us that we were in good company when it came to opting for black and white. A speedy reworking of the colour palette followed to ensure that printing in black and white would work (we also discovered there isn’t a magic ‘make black and white’ button).
4. Underestimating contingency time: We definitely underestimated the nuances of self-publishing through Amazon and how much contingency time we’d need to make all the amends that Amazon required to get to a print ready version. Despite this, we still made our deadline, but with late nights, bitten nails and just 24 hours to go! Tip; if you’re going to self-publish, clear your diary of anything for the few days ahead of when you intend to go live. You never know what bumps in the road will appear, out of nowhere…
5. Accidentally launching the book on Amazon a few days early. Oops: We thought we’d botched our ‘launch’ impact by accidentally going too early - due to over estimating Amazon approval timings before your book can be publicly seen. However our accidental “soft launch” meant we were able to sign up to Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ programme (something we’d thought was automatic, but wasn’t) so this was all set up on our official launch date a few days later. Silver linings and all that.
FIVE THINGS WE’RE GLAD WE DIDN’T SAY NO TO
1. The Propellernet book club: Talented people from all areas of Propellernet helped to name, refine and launch SUPERENGAGED. Our book club was a regular time for us to get together to share honest feedback, launch ideas, marketing plans, obstacles and work rounds as we made our first forays into self-publishing.
2. Feedback from beyond the agency: Getting perspectives on SUPERENGAGED from outside the agency as part of the editing process was invaluable. The book club’s feedback was hugely important too, but as we live and breathe Propellernet every day, I wanted to know what other people thought about the book too. Sending the manuscript out to a number of smart, experienced, curious and, importantly, candid people in our network to ask them for their thoughts was nothing short of nerve-wracking, but absolutely the right way to go. The feedback was generous, thought-provoking and sometimes hard to hear, but without question raised the quality of the book.
3. Including our epic fails: One of the tougher pieces of feedback I received on the original draft of SUPERENGAGED was from Steve Stark from Then Somehow. He said:
“The book is brilliant. Your style is strong. It’s easy to read. I want to read it but… I don’t believe a fucking word of it. It’s too good to be true. It’s too glossy. What you have forgotten Nik, is the pain of when you started. How bloody difficult it was. All the troubled times when you would be sitting there with your head in your hands in the boardroom saying, “Oh my God, how are we going to change this?” You need to go back to that point and create empathy and fess up to the problems. You need to go back to the beginning and remember how bad it was. That is the story people want to read because that is the one they can associate with and have empathy for. They may be in that position now or have been in the past. And they will know that you are really speaking the truth”
I am so glad Steve said that, because I didn’t want it to come across as inauthentic. And it’s true. When you are experimenting or innovating, some things just don’t work. Fessing up to that and showing it’s OK to fail was the right thing to do, and it’s great to hear how useful this is played back in the Amazon reviews of SUPERENGAGED now too.
4. Publishing our toolkit: I want SUPERENGAGED to be a catalyst for change in other organisations. It’s not rocket science but it can be difficult knowing where or how to start when it comes to changing workplace culture and building a happier, more engaged team. Although everyone’s journey will be different, the tools and techniques that we’ve published can be used as a starting point for change.
5. Watching SUPERENGAGED go to print: A personal highlight, and something I’d recommend to anyone else who unwittingly finds they’ve committed to writing a book. After months of writing, re-writing, pouring over the intricacies of design and formatting online files, there’s something pretty magical about watching your book roll off the press.
So, should you publish your own book? Absolutely yes. But remember to keep your words in Word as well as in design, allow plenty of time to navigate the Amazon waters, engage those around you to be part of your journey and embrace brutal feedback with every muscle you have. And do take a moment to celebrate when it all comes together. You’re going to need your energy for the avalanche of connections coming your way when you put a book out into the world. All in all, it’s very engaging. Superengaging in fact.