Book Lessons Learned

Back in late 2018, I published my first print book, “Passing a Half Century“. This told the story of my railfanning trip through Alberta and British Columbia to celebrate my 50th birthday (in 2017). I published it in electronic form and also in paperback form.

I learned some lessons from my first print book, and I applied them to my upcoming print book, “Dances and Daydreams“. I’ll probably learn more from this book!

Here are some of the lessons I learned.

People Still Like Print Books

Initially I released Passing as an ebook, available for download from Amazon and Gumroad. There were a few purchases, but it wasn’t until I prepared a paperback version for purchase that sales really took off*.

This surprised me a lot. I expected that most people would prefer an electronic version, but I was wrong. Very wrong. Print sales were more than double the electronic sales.

* “took off” is an exaggeration. Total sales of Passing are well under a hundred copies! 🙂

When I first published Dances, I released it only as a digital version. I don’t mind telling you that absolutely no-one bought it. Zero sales. I was and am OK with that. I didn’t expect anyone to be interested in a book of my poetry, but I wanted to publish it anyway to put my work “out there”. I’m satisfied.

That being said, I am hoping that the print version of Dances sells a few copies, I know I will order one!

Order a Proof

When I published Passing, I formatted everything on my computer, previewed the heck out of it, then clicked “publish” and made it available for people to buy. I did not see a printed copy before anyone else did.

That was a mistake.

I opened my print copy later, and I was disappointed to see that the font size I chose was too small. The printing is rather small and it makes the book difficult to read. One of the reviewers said as much.

I’ve toyed with the idea of releasing a second edition to fix that, but it’s low on my priority list.

For Dances I ordered a proof copy – see above. In general I was quite happy with how the proof turned out, but I did make a few small tweaks to the cover and to the content before clicking “publish”.

What I Did Right

The main thing I did right – other than actually publishing books – was to manage my expectations. I am proud of my writing and I’m proud of my books, but I had no illusions that they were going to become New York Times bestsellers.

Railways are such a niche topic, and even the most popular authors don’t sell a lot of copies without the support of a big publisher.

I am not relying on any income at all from these books, so any sale is a bonus. I’m not publishing these books to make money.

I just want to write, and share my words. I’m grateful when people choose to buy them.

If you have the urge to publish a book, I encourage you to do so. The process is worth it.

Buy Dances and Daydreams as a paperback

2 thoughts on “Book Lessons Learned”

  1. I agree that it is worthwhile, and I also agree that there shouldn’t be an expectation of massive uptake and revenue. The process has its rewards, but there is a lot of work.

  2. Hi Steve
    I have several questions on the process you are following to publish your books. I have one potential author who wants to do quite a large book but I think there is a limited market for a special interest published product.
    Please give me a shout by phone when you get a chance.
    Al Lill


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