I enjoyed the book so much (and am always fascinated by bloggers making money from these types of resources) that I asked Collis if I could interview him about the process of writing and promoting the ebook. What follows is that interview:
Where did the idea for a book come from?
Actually initially I had been writing a book about business online, and I was about two chapters in when we launched FreelanceSwitch back in April 2007. The site was such a hit that I instantly dropped the business book and decided to write one tailored to the market we were creating.
I hunted around on Amazon to see what other books in the category were around and was pleased to find that most other books on freelancing are by writers for writers. I thought a book aiming to help all types of freelancers would be well received.
How long did it take to write?
I’d say in actual hours it was probably about 80 hours of writing, but it happened over a period of 9 months. Certainly I could never have written the book in two straight 40 hour weeks.
What I was unprepared for was that editing took the same amount of time. Fortunately Cyan was responsible for this task (as well as writing one of the chapters herself) and we also managed to rope Leo Babauta of ZenHabits in return for redesigning his site.
Moreover that was just a single edit. We are now working on a second edition with more edits and incorporating any feedback we’ve had.
Any tips for budding authors in terms of writing it?
My main tip would be that unless you a very self disciplined person there will be a lot of times where you *really* don’t feel like writing. The more you put it off, the worse it gets. I found it was best to allocate some time, a day or a few hours before work, and start writing, no matter what. Sometimes you delete everything you write in the first half hour, but once you get into the swing it gets easier and things flow.
The other tip is to not discount the editing process. As someone with no background in writing or editing, I completely misjudged how long it would take to edit a book and how much revision is needed.
Finally it’s worth registering your book with the library of congress in Washington. Although strictly copyright is bestowed on the author of the work automatically, having a registration makes proving your ownership a much simpler process.
What’s the relationship like between the blog and the book?
Having a blog is to me an ideal platform to launch a book. There are two reasons for this:
(1) You have an audience of people who are interested in your opinion on a particular subject. This is a natural group of people to purchase a book extending and formalising the knowledge you are giving out on the blog. Moreover it is a great platform to begin selling your book, as inevitably word of mouth helps drive sales.
(2) When you blog you develop a network of other bloggers who know you and more than likely see your book release a newsworthy event. We’ve been so fortunate that on the release of the book, a variety of sites have featured or mentioned it.
Additionally, we’ve found that selling a book has been an excellent way of monetizing the site. This is something we’ve struggled with, particularly with advertising which seems to be tough business to be in. Selling a product – be it a book, or a course like they say in Teaching Sells – is to me, a much more dependable business to be in. Where advertising is relying on a few, large transactions, selling a book is relying on a lot of smaller transactions. This is inherently more stable.
How are sales going?
Sales have been really good, exceeding our own expectations. Since I know, personally I’m always dying to get actual numbers when other people talk about things like sales, I’ve made a graph of the daily sales of the book for Problogger readers to reference (see below).
Some things to note are that periodically the sales spikes, particularly around the 18th of December when we sent out sample copies to many other bloggers to give away or review. Also the first day (the 14th) and the 22nd when we mailed out a discount offer for the book.
So overall, it’s been good. I know that some ebooks sell in much larger quantities (e.g. the 37Signals book which has sold more than 30,000 copies) and I suppose many sell in smaller quantities. The main thing though is that the sales seem to be settling into a consistent earning proposition.
Are you able to get a break down on how many are buying it from Freelance Switch as opposed to from other sources? I’m interested in seeing if it’s readers who are buying it or others?
Not exactly, however we have an affiliate program, so I can say how much of the sales have been a result of that. About 1/3 of all sales come from an affiliate link.
You’ve decided to launch with an ebook but also say you’ll do a hard copy on lulu – What was the thinking there?
At 212 pages, the book is a fairly long read. Personally, I don’t tend to read long ebooks (although I still seem to buy them anyway!) With Lulu’s service there isn’t really any cost associated with selling a book in paperback in that you don’t need to hold stock or process orders. The cost per print of each book is around $8 plus Lulu takes a commission as well. So we’re selling the book for $35 on Lulu (Available here) and out of each sale about $21 comes to us.
In essence, there’s really no reason *not* to sell the book as a hard copy.
One day I hope that we’ll have enough capital to get the book into bookstores, but for the moment we’re content to have it as an ebook/lulu paperback.
What techniques have you used to promote the book?
Early on, months prior to completing the book, we added a page to the FreelanceSwitch site promising a book. We included an email newsletter sign up form that I created in about 30 seconds using CampaignMonitor which stated that subscribers would receive a $10 off voucher when the book came out.
Over the three months we had almost a thousand people sign up for the launch code. This meant that we had one thousand people to email when we launched the book. Sure we lost 33% of sales coming from those customers, but the tradeoff of getting momentum and early sales was worth it.
We’ve now got a subscription form for the next book – How to Be a Rockstar WordPress Designer – up at http://freelanceswitch.com/book.
What section of the book are you most proud of/excited by – and why?
Oddly enough the thing that I’m most proud of is the branding of the book. Early on we had planned to call the book “Hired Gun” and make it a one off. But on the advice of our FreelanceSwitch subeditor John Brougher, we decided instead to create a brand for the book – How to be a Rockstar – which means that we can now release other books and leverage the success of the first.
So you can look forward to not only a second edition of this first book to be released soon (and made available to previous purchasers) but also other books in the same line.
Get a Copy – if you don’t have a copy of the book you can buy one at How to Be a Rockstar Freelancer.