Last year, we featured Business of Blogging course member Talek in an interview here on the Superstar Blog. She has recently written and published an ebook, and in this follow-up interview she shares her experience and tips regarding the process. If you’re thinking about self-publishing in the future, be sure to give this a read!
Hi Talek! Give us a quick re-introduction to your blog!
My blog, Travels with Talek is for curious adventurers who, like me, enjoy culture, food and a little bit of comfort when they travel.I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now, and I share information on unique destinations and provide actionable travel tips and advice. My focus is on experiential travel, cultural immersion and interaction with local people to inspire travelers to create their own unique travel experiences.
Now, you’ve recently published a book. Tell us about it!
The book’s title is “Don’t Just Travel to Cuba, Experience Cuba Like a Local.” It is a comprehensive travel guide to Cuba to help travelers make the most of their trip to this culturally unique and fascinating country. This guide offers tips, advice, maps, cultural insights and over 60 full-color photos.
I’m Cuban-American so I can offer a deep cultural perspective that perhaps others might not be able to provide. In the book, I offer tips and hacks you are unlikely to get from other tour books. One of my favorite parts of the book is the conversations I have with local Cubans; the tuk-tuk driver (in Cuba they are called bicitaxis), the attendant at the cemetery gate, the hostess at my homestay that described an especially difficult period in Cuba’s history, the two guys negotiating a barter exchanging batteries for cooking oil and limes for a fan repair (It helps to speak Spanish). I chose to write about this topic because there is much confusion about traveling to Cuba especially for U.S. citizens. I also want to get my name out there because I hope to do tours to Cuba soon. Lastly, the current leader in Cuba is expected to retire later this year. I’m betting there will be renewed interest in Cuba when that happens.
How long did it take you to make the book?
In order to make a travel guide about Cuba, I had to go to Cuba several times. I visited all the places I talk about in the book. Initially, I created several posts about Cuba; specific cities, transportation, food, accommodations, currency, etc. When I was ready to put the book together, I already had a lot of material. Of course, the chapters in the book are not exact copies of the posts on my blog but they are influenced by them. Those posts were the core of the book. Then I started to flesh out the book by adding chapters like: an introduction, a brief history of Cuba, Cuba cultural insights, Cuba resources like foreign embassies, where to eat options, using Wi-Fi, good to know tips like voltage, the best time to go, weather, and other topics people would be interested in. To get an idea of what to include, I looked at other people’s travel blogs like Matt Kepnes’ city tours. I can’t really measure the time it took to write in hours per week because the posts were all done over a period of about a year and a half then I put them together with the additional information.
Did you outsource any parts of it?
I hired an editor to proofread the book. I also hired someone to format the text, create a book cover, create the appropriate files for Amazon Kindle, and a PDF so I could sell it on my blog and on other’s blogs in the future.
About how much should someone expect to pay for the services you used?
I contracted the services of freelancers through Upwork which was recommended by Matt Kepnes in the course. I was surprised at the wide range of pricing for the same service. For example, the cost of editing/proofreading the manuscript ranged from about $100 to $300. I went for the lowest price because I figured, “How hard can this be?” and I was disappointed. Another example was converting a file to PDF so I could sell it on my website. I was quoted $50 with a two-hour turn-around to over $250 and a 7-day turn-around. Here again, I opted for the cheapest price. I was thrilled with the result and patted myself on the back that I was saving over $200. So you really never know. Formatting and converting to mobi and epub file prices range from about $200 to $400. Book cover creating prices were wild, everything from $40 to $800.
I contracted a Book Blogger Broker to promote the book through bloggers that specialize in books.They list the book with a detailed description and distribute to their followers. I have not executed this promotion yet so I don’t know if its worth it, but the cost can range from $25 to the sky’s the limit depending on the services you want.
What websites did you find helpful for making your book?
My first go-to source is Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging Course. I also used “Kindle Publishing Made Stupidly Easy” to follow along with the instructions on creating, publishing and promoting an ebook.
What was the biggest struggle for the process?
I think the biggest struggle was dealing with electronic book publishing, a subject that I was completely unfamiliar with. I didn’t know what I didn’t know so I couldn’t say things to myself like, “Oh, I’m going to need an ISBN number” or “Should I use a PDF or an EPUB file for that?” I needed someone to help me with basically every step of the process and I didn’t know where to go for most of the information. Most information sources deal with the ebook publishing subject in very broad and general terms or use terminology that assumes the reader has at least a passing knowledge of the subject. I didn’t. As a result, I had to depend on service providers some of which were not very good. My proofreader left errors in the manuscript, so I learned that just because someone proofreads a book there is no guarantee it is perfect. And yes, I did go back for corrections, but some errors were found three steps further down in the publishing process. A bit too late! I had a formatter/book cover creator that was so appalling that I had to go back to the service provider and demand my money back (I got it).
My lack of knowledge also contributed to my indecision. Do I go with just an ebook or an ebook plus a paper copy? And what are the implications of that? And if it is a paper copy, how do you put in links? I guess at that stage people know if they want one or the other format. I finally decided to go with the ebook for now and evaluate the paper copy later.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started this project?
I wish there was a detailed and very specific guide to publishing an ebook designed for people with no knowledge of the topic whatsoever, like ebook publishing for dummies.
How are you going about marketing it? Have you done any paid ads?
I created a two-month marketing plan for now. Some highlights include:
- Regular posting on FB and Twitter.
- I created a fan page on my blog
- Pinned the cover to my FB page
- Inserted the book cover on my blog homepage
- Created a post for the launch
- Advertised the launch on my newsletter to my subscribers
- Trying to figure out how to promote on Instagram and Pinterest
- Working with a “book blogger broker”(didn’t know these existed) to promote the book via: 1. Cover reveal 2. Book Blitz and 3. Virtual book tour.
- Signed up for Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select for 90 days. In return, Amazon places the book on the “People also bought…”section. They also include you in the “Free book promotion” for 5 days during your 90-day agreement.
What is the #1 tip you have for someone looking to publish their own book?
Read as much as you can beforehand if you are not familiar with the process. Then, if you’re really serious about it, jump in and learn as you go. Who was it that said, “sometimes you just have to jump and grow wings on your way down.”
I will say that once the book is up for sale seeing the sales come in is a pretty cool and rewarding feeling. A couple of days ago I saw that I sold a copy on Amazon Germany. A bit tongue in cheek now I can legitimately say I am an internationally published author on my bio!
You can find out more about Talek on her blog, Travels with Talek. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.