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4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing a Book

4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing a Book

“Dude, you should totally write a book!”

Maybe you’ve heard that before or it’s just something you’ve always wanted to do. But writing is only part of what it takes to get a book in the hands of eager readers.

Self-publishing is all the rage these days but there’s still a lot to learn for a first time author.

As I write this article, my book has officially been released for five months. Sales are steady but I’m ready to get back to writing.

Get back to writing? Didn’t I just “write” a book?

Yes, but the majority of my last six months has been spent getting the book ready for sale.

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So before you start down the self-publishing road, here are a few things to take into consideration.

1. Once You Finish Writing, Expect More Work

I finished writing my book in December of 2011; the book was officially available on Amazon the first week in June 2012. I used CreateSpace for editing, internal design, and publishing. I used my sister for cover design.

I could have cut down on time if I’d simplified my internal design and cover—or just used CreateSpace for the cover design as well. But it was my first baby and I wanted the cover to be awesome and knew my sister would do a great job (which she did!). So I was happy to wait while she designed my cover between a full-time job and single motherhood.

The copy editing process with CreateSpace was fairly easy. Once submitted, it only took a few weeks to get my first manuscript back with tracked changes. After that, I made changes and used family and friends to proof read. Depending on your manuscript length, (mine was around 32K words,) this takes time.

One thing I would have done differently is be more diligent about format checking the Word document before submitting the final manuscript for proof printing. Things like two En dashes (- -) instead of one Em dash (—) which looked fine in the manuscript due to the font I used showed up all over the place in the printed proof. Of course this is what proofing is for, but with CreateSpace you only get so many corrections for free so you might end up having to prioritize what changes are made or pay extra.

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2. The Headaches of Paperback

Every aspiring author wants to see his or her name in print. I can attest to the fact that it’s a pretty cool feeling. There’s nothing like holding your book in your hands for the first time. However, when it came time to market and set pricing, the print version added some extra headache to pricing options.

Let me explain…

My main sales strategy was to consist of online sales through my website. The goal is to set pricing in a way that encourages people to purchase an eBook bundle—PDF, .mobi, and .epub—via my website since Amazon.com takes 40% of the print books list price. Yeah, you read that correctly, 40%. But they also have the ability to reach millions of potential readers.

I can way overanalyze things and probably spent unnecessary time worrying about how to price these different formats (Kindle, Print, PDF, etc.) to maximize profits and reach. Two goals which seem to conflict with each other; future testing will reveal some insights no doubt.

At this point, I still have a lot of testing to do as far as pricing, but it would have been a lot simpler to offer only a Kindle and/or eBook bundle. Nonetheless, I’m not sure I would have done it any differently for my first book. It’s just something to think about.

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3. Blurb Requests

When it came time to request blurbs, I wanted to send out a copy of my manuscript that had been through at least one round of copy editing to avoid most grammar or spelling errors. This was pretty late in the game and thus added time waiting (and praying) for responses.

Everyone wants’ the best blurbs for their book, but requesting them takes a special knack that I’m not quite sure I navigated correctly. I did get some awesome blurbs, but it’s hard to know if I did it the right way. I just tried to think of how I would prefer to be approached, and what would make it easier for me?

Some suggest sending an “example” blurb in your request so all they have to do is tweak it a little and add their name to it. This seemed awful presumptions to me, but I did have better luck once I started using this approach.

Next time I’ll spend more time revising my rough draft and start sending it out a lot sooner.

4. Trailer video

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Being in the non-fiction (self-help) niche, I’ve seen other authors use interview styled trailers with success so I decided to have one created for my first book.

Although there’s no way to tell how much impact my trailer has had on sales at this point, I’m not sure I would do it again. It added additional time and money to the project, so the jury is still out on its effectiveness. At some point, I’ll A/B test the sales page to see how it affects conversions.

Another use for the trailer will be to promote on YouTube and other video sites. I purchased a handful of easy-to-remember domain names around topic keywords that redirect to my sales page with logic to track where the sales originated. This will allow me to track traffic from assets like free eBooks, newsletters, podcast, etc. to know what’s working.

Distribution is another area for consideration. For example, do you use Amazon only or do you use a service such as Smashwords.com to distribute the eBook version to multiple sites?

Yeah… there’s a lot to think about and it can get overwhelming at times.

So even though I’ll approach my next self-published project a little differently, I learned valuable lessons. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to anyone considering self-publishing, it would be determine what your budget is and bootstrap the things you can’t afford. But most importantly, kick procrastination to the curb and just do it!

Featured photo credit:  book of fantasy stories via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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