by Rachel Lewis
When I quit my writing job to take care of my firstborn daughter, an opportunity suddenly presented itself. I could now write about what I was passionate about, not what was assigned to me. Starting a blog seemed like the natural first step. I had no training in blogging, no inherent platform, and for a while, no clear focus – but I did have a strong voice. And so for five years, I kept showing up on my blog.
As I learned more about blogging, I heard that it was important to build a following. But I didn’t take the idea of a platform seriously. I figured as long as I wrote well, a publisher would happen upon me, and bam, I’d get a contract. Right?? (So wrong.)
I had a voice. But what I needed was an intentional plan to build a network of people who liked my work, would share my work, and show the powers that be that my voice really was in demand.
Finally, I realized my fear and perfectionism were holding me back from focusing on a subscription list and self-publishing my book. It finally sunk in. If I just put in the effort, I could create a gift for my readership that would continue to give back to me. (And, in full disclosure – since I hadn’t put any effort into getting subscribers since switching from Blogspot to self-hosted WordPress AFTER I had already had several posts go viral, I literally had only three subscribers to my new website. And one of those three was me.)
But . . . as our conference mentors said time and again . . . “Just launch the plane and fix it midair.”
It was time to for me to launch. And my ebook, Living Through Loss: 7 Ways to Survive & Thrive was born.
So now that you know how much of a normal writer I am, be encouraged that no matter at what point you start from or what experience you bring to the table, you have what it takes to self-publish. To help you along the way, here are some tips I wished I would have known from the beginning.
Three tips to help you along the way
1) Good writing is only part of the equation. I used to say, “I’m a great writer and a horrible blogger.” Writing always came naturally to me. What didn’t come easily to me? Understanding webhosting. SEO. Plug-ins. Link ups. Giveaways. Great graphics. Or anything remotely related to technology. Which is why I procrastinated for a long time on publishing my short eBook. Writing it wasn’t hard. It was finding out how to design it, format it, offer it to my readers and deliver it to those who subscribed.
In order to have a successful blog and platform, you need to learn to take care of both. Have excellent content and present it in a way that your audience will see it. Which brings me to my next tip . . .
2) Find yourself a team. While I may have self-published, I assure you I did not publish my eBook by myself. I needed a team to help me fill in the gap between what I knew and what I needed to learn. I knew I could harness other people’s talents where I fell short if I just got creative! I couldn’t afford to hire a marketing team, a publicist or technical support. So here’s what I did:
– I worked for help. I began an internship in which I exchanged 10 hours of work each month for two hours of coaching. Once I was ready to publish my book, I used that coaching time with someone who could show me the technical ropes to getting my book launched.
My mentor taught me how to use MailChimp to make an automated email list, to install and use plug-ins on my blog, and how to create my book in PDF format with a quick and easy link to send to my subscribers. I also used coaching to create and gain feedback on the content I included in my book.
– I networked for help. I cannot say enough about the power of a network. A friend from a mom’s group was launching her online design business, and needed an example of a website to show her clients. She offered to redesign my website for free in exchange for credit on my website as well as a testimonial from me.
Friends from both the Leverage conference and my internship helped me hone my message for my book. Many spread the word on social media once I had launched.
I approached a speaker at a conference on my topic of choice, and from that conversation, we’ve had a great working relationship. He taught me how to use Canva.com to create the PDF of my eBook. In turn, I wrote a guest post for him and helped share his blog.
My computer-savvy husband helped me create an email specifically for my blog, and link up my MailChimp automated service to my web host to my Gmail.
– I looked for help. If there was a free webinar on self-publishing from Michael Hyatt, I took the course. I joined blogging groups on Facebook, where I could ask questions from those who were further along in the process than me. I friended authors on Facebook, and studied what they offered on their blogs.
3) Trust your voice. You have what it takes. Stop comparing your voice, your message or your platform to others. Sure, you might need help honing or editing your message or delivery. We all are better with a second, third or fourth pair of eyes. BUT – no one else on this whole planet can deliver your message the way you can. There is space for you and space for your book. It’s your job to get it out there.
How self-publishing helped
Self-publishing came at a major learning curve (and more than one mini-breakdown), but I emerged from the process as an author to my very first book . . . with hopefully many more to come.
Having self-published gave my website much more credibility, which is key for not only my readership — but also for anyone in publishing or media who might be interested in sharing my work. It allowed me to change my name on my professional social media page from my blog’s name to, “Rachel Lewis, Author & Speaker.”
Whether it is due to the actual publishing of the book, or due to all the networking and learning that naturally came with it, my writing has since garnered national attention. My social media following went from about 350 followers (and it took me over a year to just get that many!) to well over 800 in a matter of weeks. My subscription rate went from three to more than 100. And I know I’m just getting started.
I believe that if you are serious about your message, and are ready to start attracting a following, self-publishing is an amazing opportunity for you to grow. Just remember, you’re not on this journey alone. No matter what your next step is, there is someone out there willing and able to help you get there. You just need to go find them.
The next Leverage: The Speaker’s Conference is being held in March 2017 in Prescott Arizona. Additional events are being held in 2017 throughout the country. For all the details and to reserve your spot for this life changing event, click here.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joes, drinking coffee, or writing at The Lewis Note.