Self-Publishing: An Interview with Peter Bowerman, Part 3

Welcome to the conclusion of my interview with Peter Bowerman. If you missed them, Part 1 overviewed two of Peter’s books, while  Part 2 began our
Q & A about self-publishing. Peter is an award-wining author, veteran commercial freelancer and business coach. His books are informative and a joy to read. We pick up here on the topic of self-publishing…

You mention the cover design of your first book as being crucial to its success – in fact the old adage that people judge books by their covers seems to hold true. Can you pass on any do’s and don’ts about cover design?

Very simple. Invest time and money coming up with a good cover. Conservatively, 250,000 new books are published every year. Those in a position to distribute, stock, or review those books are always looking for reasons to “cull the herd,” and the most common way to do so is covers. Don’t make their job any easier. Hire a professional, NOT your cousin who’s “artistic.” As an author, don’t trust yourself to know what good design looks like. Trust in others who know.

Even though self-publishing seems to have thrown off – to a degree at least – the negative aspects of vanity publishing, do you think that self-publishing is still viewed with suspicion and prejudice by the book market. Why do you think this is in a world dominated by social media and the citizen journalist?

While there’s still a stigma attached to self-publishing – well-deserved in most cases – self-publishing is definitely rising in respect and prestige. At the annual Ben Franklin Awards, produced by IBPA (The Independent Book Publishers Association, the largest organization catering to independent publishers), there are always “talent scouts” from the big publishing houses in attendance, or at the very least, monitoring, and in many cases, contacting the award winners and in effect, “cherry-picking.” They know the winners have written solid books. So, the perception is changing.

In addition, I’d like to think that bar is rising, in part, thanks to books like mine, both The Well-Fed Writer, by example, and more logistically, through my book, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living. One of my key goals of writing that book was to raise the bar on the quality of self-published work, and judging by the feedback and results it’s spawned, so far, it’s succeeded.

If other freelance writers are considering self-publishing as a part of their writer platform, what do think their biggest challenge will be with the process?

Well, whether you’re self-publishing or conventionally publishing, everyone starts in the same place: coming up with a topic that’s marketable. Using my books as an example, I knew there was a market for a book (The Well-Fed Writer) offering a complete blueprint for starting your own lucrative writing business (as opposed to another simply straight “freelance writing” book – most of which discuss avenues of dubious financial potential).

Ditto with The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, a book offering a complete blueprint for profitably self-publishing your book. Not just telling you how to self-publish, but (as my subtitle – accurate, mind you – promises), how to indeed turn one book into a full-time living. And that’s the key – you have to make sure you separate yourself from the pack somehow.

And of course, for many writers, the biggest challenge will be “MARKETING.” The very word is enough to terrorize writers, but having come from that background, I have been able, in my books, to demystify those often-scary concepts so they’ll work for you not against you.

Do you have any favorite self-publishing resources that other writers may want to consider?

Well, the book that inspired me (and thousands of others), of course, is Dan Poynter’s, The Self-Publishing Manual. This guy is the godfather of self-publishing, started doing it back in 1977 (hard to imagine…), and has updated the book a zillion times since.

John Kremer’s, 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, is another classic. A ton of great ideas. But know that John will be the first to tell you that you can only do 4-5 really well!

Brian Jud – Beyond the Bookstore, for those books that have “special sale” potential (i.e., can be sold in large quantities to different entities).

Shel Horowitz’s Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers.

These are the ones that come to mind.

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Thank you, Peter, for taking the time to talk (or in this case type) with Daddy Brain. If you’d like to learn more about either of Peter’s books just click the appropriate title:


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And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully

Self-Publishing: An Interview with Peter Bowerman, Part 2

Peter Bowerman is an award-wining author, veteran commercial freelancer and business coach. He’s written two of my favorite books, which remarkably are not about being a dad! Peter’s books are about making a living by writing: specifically freelance copywriting (The Well-Fed Writer), and self-publishing (The Well-Fed Self Publisher).

Part 1 of this series overviewed both books. Part 2 focuses specifically on self-publishing. Peter was kind enough to answer some questions on the subject. I hope you find them helpful…

Can you outline why you got into self-publishing with your first book? Why not take this to a traditional publishing house?

The short answer, I suppose (only half-joking…) is that I’m a control freak at heart! But, seriously, I’m not sure what gave me the sense that I could do it (since I had zero experience in publishing of any kind), but what I WAS sure of was that the “deal” being offered by traditional publishing houses was no prize: You give up the rights, control of the creative process, control of the timetable and almost all the profits. And then you’re still expected to do most of the marketing yourself. And if anything, that scenario has gotten worse for authors since then.

An author with a $20 retail book like mine might make $1 a book through a publisher. Even on the low end (i.e., through the bookstores and Amazon, where you’re giving up 55% of your retail out of the gate), I’ll still make 4-5 times that. Sales on my own site? I can net $14 or so. And that doesn’t even count the potential to market companion ebook products to web site buyers – that they’ll purchase along with the hard-copy book, and which represent pure profit – often $20-30 more, on top of the profit on the hard book. I’ve that quite successfully with both my last two books.

Looking back at the experience of self-publishing the first edition of the Well Fed Writer, what key advice would you give to new aspiring self-publishers?

Let me preface my remarks here with this: my experience is in non-fiction, and specifically, non-fiction “how-to,” so this is the only book genre I can speak about authoritatively. Fiction is a different ballgame – though, that said, many fiction authors have applied my strategies with good success.

Whether you’re self-publishing or conventionally publishing, the first step is crucial: come up with a topic that’s marketable. Using my books as an example, I knew there was a market for a book (The Well-Fed Writer) offering a complete blueprint for starting your own lucrative writing business (as opposed to another simply straight “freelance writing” book – most of which discuss avenues of dubious financial potential).

Ditto with The Well-Fed Self-Publisher, offering a complete blueprint for profitable self-publishing. Not just telling you how, logistically, to self-publish, but (as my subtitle promises), how to turn one book into a full-time living. You have to separate yourself from the pack. If there are already 20 books on your subject, does the world need a 21st and if so, what makes yours better in ways that’ll mean something to a buyer?

Just as crucially, is this: Write a Really Good Book. I had an epiphany recently that this is THE #1 most important marketing strategy any self-publisher can employ. Write a really good book, one that’s better than it has to be – well-written, well-produced, topical, comprehensive, useful – and you’ll make your ongoing marketing infinitely easier. Why? Because you’ll have precious and powerful word-of-mouth advertising going for you. ,

For many writers, the biggest challenge will be “MARKETING.” The very word is enough to terrorize creative types, but know that it’s not nearly as scary as it first seems. Having come from that background, I’ve been able, in my books, to demystify those often-scary concepts so they’ll work for you, not against you.

Finally, many people fail as self-publishers because they forget that first and foremost, that this is a business and you need to bring rigor to the running of it. Be committed to excellence, reliability and service, and you’ll do fine.

With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently when you published your first book? What pitfalls do you now avoid?

I was rushing to get it done, having pre-sold 1,000 copies to Writer’s Digest Book Club, and I proofed it myself. BIG mistake. I cringe when I think of how many errors were in that first edition. Thank goodness the first run sold out relatively quickly and I could get the next printing right. Other than that, believe it or not, I actually didn’t make any major blunders the first go-round.

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Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series, which completes the interview. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about either of Peter’s books just click the appropriate title:


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And remember, you are not alone…

Related Links:
Putting Your Passion Into Print: Get Your Book Published Successfully

A Book Review & Interview: Peter Bowerman, The Well-Fed Writer

Peter Bowerman is an award-wining author, veteran commercial freelancer and business coach. He’s written two of my favorite books, which remarkably are not about being a dad! Peter’s books are about making a living by writing: specifically freelance copywriting (The Well-Fed Writer), and self-publishing (The Well-Fed Self Publisher).

I’m highlighting Peter’s books because they might prove helpful if you happen to be looking for a new career path, a flexible (good paying) second income, or if you’ve been contemplating writing a book…

Copywriting: A Little Backstory
The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less, helped me launch my career as a professional copywriter* almost eight years ago. It’s a book my wife discovered, but of course I was too cheap to buy it. One night as we walked by Barnes and Noble, she informed me that we were going inside the store and we were buying the book. Within a month, I had completed my first copywriting job and was paid $400 for less than 8 hours work. Not a bad deal.

*Note: In case you’re wondering, a copywriter is someone who writes copy (words) for catalogs, ad campaigns, press releases, etc. It has nothing to do with the “copyright” you see on books and music.

Quick Synopsis: The Well-Fed Writer, newly released, is the updated compilation of Bowerman’s two original WFW titles: the 2000 award-winning Book-of-the-Month Club selection of the same name, and the 2004 triple-award-finalist companion volume, TWFW: Back For Seconds. Bowerman bills the book as, “a detailed how-to guide to help writers start a lucrative commercial freelancing practice: writing for businesses and creative agencies, and for hourly rates of $50-125+.”

More Interested in Self-Publishing?
The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, is a book I’m currently reading (you could even say studying). I’ve been writing a book of my own, and until a few months ago knew nothing about the business, let alone my options. Whether you ultimately decide to self-publish or go the traditional route and work with a publisher, this book is chock-full of information & insight that you need to know. It covers every facet of the book publishing process — making it a must read for anyone who’s serious about developing a successful book.

Quick Synopsis: Landing a publisher has never been more difficult. Yet, seeing one’s labor of love in print remains a dream for so many, even if it’s achieved by so few. But a new book, The Well-Fed Self-Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living, offers up another option to the legions of authors brooding over stacks of publishing company rejection letters. Its message: Publish it yourself and make a living from it.

In the next installment of this series I’ll talk with Peter about self-publishing. If you’re thinking of going from electronic media to the printed page (or e-books and CD books for that matter), it’s an opportunity to gain some insight.

To learn more about either of Peter’s books just click the appropriate title:


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And remember, you are not alone…

Buyer Beware – My Hewlett-Packard went on Fire!

What would you do if your laptop went on fire? Would you consider this normal?

Well, Hewlett-Packard couldn’t even muster up an apology, let alone common courtesy when I called them for help.

Extremely frustrated, I wrote a letter to the president of the company, hoping there would be more integrity and customer care at the top. That was three weeks ago. I have received no response.

My follow up call to the HP home office was answered by people who barely spoke coherent english. And aparently they received the same training as their coworkers in the customer service department – bad or none.

This is the letter, reprinted in full:

Mr. Mark V. Hurd, CEO
cc: Ms. Catherine A. Lesjak, CFO
cc: Mr. Randall D. Mott, CIO

Hewlett-Packard Company
3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Dear Mr. Hurd:

I am writing to you because I am extremely dissatisfied with the way I was treated by HP’s customer service department. My Customer Number is 7501131298.

In 2002, I had purchased an HP Pavilion ZT1135 computer that recently went on fire. When I called HP to discuss what happened, I was first told that I was out of the warranty window and that I couldn’t be helped. I explained that this was not a normal wear and tear issue, and that regardless of the warranty the computer should not go on fire – under any circumstances.

I was on the phone multiple times with HP for total of over 2-hours. With each frustrating phone call, I had to repeat exactly what the problem was over and over to different customer service reps and case managers. I will detail it here so you can understand the circumstances:

The problem is that internal monitor cable that connects the screen to the motherboard went on fire. A flame, approximately 3” in height, came out of the computer right next to the on/off button. The hard drive, motherboard, etc, still work. But since the video cable burned through, the backlight / inverter is not getting any power so it won’t power the light behind the screen. It’s also possible that the inverter was damaged by this incident.

The monitor still works. Using a flashlight I was able to illuminate the screen and see that it does still power on and work just fine. It is quite easy to see the damaged video cable. There’s a long, thin panel that flips up just above the keyboard, which allows one to look inside.

A case manager did finally agree to take the machine in for review. A few days later he called me back and told me his technician said my monitor had died! The technician made no mention of the fire, or the visually damaged video cable. He just said the monitor had stopped working! I am not a computer guy, but even I can see that the monitor is working fine and that the video cable is burned through. Why weren’t the problems I reported addressed?

I was also told that I was using a third party A/C adaptor, which is true. The one that came with the computer stopped working (and at some point was actually recalled by HP). This is what Best Buy gave me as a suitable replacement (I had an extended warranty with them).

Here’s the thing: the A/C adaptor didn’t go on fire, nor did the motherboard. I was plugged into a surge protector and the A/C adaptor still works! So I’m not sure why the technician would mention this, but fail to mention the burned through video cable. I have to question if he even looked at the video cable!

So the computer was sent back to me, unrepaired. At the time of purchase I paid over $1,600 for this laptop. Needless to say I am very disappointed in the customer care I received.

At the very least, I wanted you to know what happened. As the president and CEO of the company, I’m sure you don’t want customers to feel mistreated – especially when an incident like this happens. My wife was using the computer when it went on fire. She could have been hurt. My son could have been hurt, or my home could have gone on fire.

My impression was that HP was an excellent company with stellar integrity & customer service.

I did not even receive an apology for my computer going on fire!

Instead I felt as if I were on trial, answering the same questions countless times – as if I were being interrogated as a suspect who had committed a crime. How is that customer service?

I would truly appreciate if HP could repair my laptop, or send something comparable as a replacement. As long as my family has a machine that works, I’ll be happy.

If you have any questions, or need further information, please feel free to call me anytime.

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Yes, my laptop is old. But that doesn’t mean HP’s integrity should expire.

And remember, you ar not alone…

The Road to Nowhere: It’s not too late to recreate your reality

Those of us old enough to remember the band, The Talking Heads, know that this is the title of a fantastic song. But what about the roads we travel each day? The path that we’ve carved out for ourselves, or the one that we unwillingly walk because it’s the only one we see?

I often feel mixed emotions about my existence. On the one hand, I have a beautiful family that brings be great joy and offers me unconditional love. I am so grateful, and I feel there’s nothing more special or important than my wife and kids. On the other hand, my wife and I have been facing health issues, and like most “middle-class Americans,” finances have been tight. Although I believe (spiritually and in my heart) that there is always a solution to every situation, my thoughts often wander into feeling that there’s nowhere to turn.

The road I’m traveling feels like the drive that never ends, with no relief in sight. Or so it seems. And although I think most parents face this same dilemma, that doesn’t make it right, normal or particularly sane.

I believe that we create our own reality. I’ve written about it many times on this blog, including posts on Anything is Possible; The Magic Quarter: Creating Your Own Reality; and Positive Energy: Life Changing Energy.

How does creating, or recreating, our reality work?
For those of you who haven’t heard the concept before, it’s basically about being mindful about what you’d like to bring into your existence. Think and speak about what you would like to manifest in your life and it will come. It also involves action — doing your part — to help the manifestation occur. There are a bunch of books on the subject that will explain it to you better than I can (see a brief listing below), but that’s basically it. Think, speak, do — and eventually it will manifest.

I’d like to clarify that sometimes “doing” has nothing to do with what you’re really doing. It’s about who you are being in relation to what you’re doing that’s important. Doing will keep you busy, but it’s stagnant. Being is dynamic, and is a much more powerful way to live.

In a very direct way, how you change your child’s diaper is related to changing your life. Are you happy to do it? Or complaining because the poop stinks and you’re running late, and you didn’t get a restful night’s sleep? In life, do you take action on what needs to be done to better your existence, or do you let fatigue and lack of time (difficult reasons to overcome) stop you? It’s all about being true to who you are no matter what you are doing or where you happen to be. The more positive we are, the more positivity we attract into our lives. This is no easy feat, but if we can pull it off we become like a giant magnet, attracting our desires. The bigger the magnet, the faster we create. This is how we accomplish great things.

Otherwise, we’re on a road to nowhere.

And remember, you are not alone…

Recommended books on creating your own reality:
– Conversations with God, by Neil Donald Walsh
– Spirit Healing, by Mary Dean Atwood

Related posts:
Out of Energy, Out of Time, Out of Luck?
The Magic Quarter: Creating Your Own Reality
Anything is Possible