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Amy’s Notes: Today I interview an award-winning travel book author, Lee Foster, who, after publishing 14 books “traditionally,” has now released four “self” published books.
The question is—why? You can see Lee’s 18 books on his Amazon Author Page. Lee has mainly focused on travel books, but also has some literary books, and has a very successful career as a traditionally published author.
Lee recently brought out his annual revision of his book on self-pub, which is An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. Curious as to his experiences, I asked Lee if he would be willing to share with us some thoughts on self publishing. He was kind enough to answer the questions below:
What is one thing that you can remember that you did when marketing your books that did not go well and what would you have done instead?
I recently came out with my memoir about growing up in Minnesota, titled Minnesota Boy, as a self-pub book. Earlier it had been traditionally published, and sold out, but then went into decline, as I moved on to other books. I got the publishing rights back. I could have done more to prep for the release on the new self-pub version. I could have done more research on the reviewers, the bookstores, all the folks that make a book about the Midwest viable. Of course, because the book is self-pub, the timeline for success is not frantic. I will catch up and do more to promote the book in the future.
What are most the successful steps you took to increase your book sales?
My main self-pub book is a travel guide, called Northern California Travel: The Best Options. It’s been a successful book for two reasons. First, the territory is a good subject, meaning San Francisco and Northern California is of worldwide interest. But secondly, the book is successful partly because I increased my book “sales” by publishing it in several “forms.” Let me explain. The book is a “printed” book, done print-on-demand with Amazon for its internal market and with Ingram for bookstores and libraries. The book is also an ebook, published direct (but not exclusively) with Amazon and also to “everyone else” through BookBaby. What is innovative is that I see the book’s 30 chapters as also 30 articles on my website, supported by ads. See the 30 chapters at my Norcal on the black bar of my website navigation at www.fostertravel.com. The true sequence of chapters gets a little obscured as I update articles/chapters and they move to the top in the WordPress date-ordered structure. That book is also now out in Chinese in China, and I get a little thrill, and some monthly payment every month since April 2015, as I see my first book (but not my last book, stay tuned) on my Amazon China page. For sales success, we need to get our books out in as many viable “forms” as possible.
What is your favorite part of self-publishing?
My favorite part of self-publishing is keeping track of all the incremental developments and then sharing them annually with my fans. The self-pub or indie-pub vision, call it what you wish, is in an ascendant phase. I believe it will become the norm in the future, as technology and market access proceeds. I have recently come out with the 2016 version of my self-pub book An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. The book first came out Spring 2015. So much has changed even within one year. My fans appreciate that I put up a summary for free of a couple of major changes in each of the 10 chapters of the book in a recent website post.
What is (for you) the hardest part of self-publishing?
For me, the hardest part is deciding wisely each day how to spend my time, given a range of wonderful options to promote my four self-pub books.
For example, I have a self-pub travel/literary book, which has its fans. In the book I describe in 25 short essays why I think we live in both the most wondrous and the most horrific time ever to be alive. I believe this is the central experience and internal debate occurring in the average informed human being in our time. I look at 25 worldwide locations in my experience, meditating in a text on the wondrous/horrific reality, and I present a photo. The book is Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time. The book exists as a printed book (now print-on-demand), and as an ebook, and as an audiobook (A lot folks will “read” books if they can listen while commuting). This book will also be my “second” book translated into Chinese. My Chinese partners feel this may catch a wave, as modern Chinese folks think of their place in the world. But more could be done to promote the book, by me. Could I get more fans for this book if I engaged more on Goodreads? The possibilities are out there. It all takes time. I wake up every morning and carefully allocate my time. Which book should get my promotional attention today? And which future book (I am working on two) should I spend some time writing today?