Friday, 14 June 2013

A better way to spend your commute

It was about two years ago while sitting on a London Underground tube firing small birds at towers, that I felt a strong pang of discontent. I’ve spent so much time, I thought whilst pulling back yet another bird in the catapult, to and from work playing time wasting apps like Angry Birds on my iPhone. How much time has this all amounted to over the last few years? I wondered. How could I use this time better? What could I do with this time instead?

Ideally it would be something off my Bucket List, but the Tube was severely limiting to many of my aspirations like swimming with dolphins or fire eating. 

Fortunately, writing a book was also on the list and, although it would be a challenge on an iPhone, I decided to give it a go. I even had an idea based on the digital industry I work in where the Web, Social Media and Analytics are what we all live and breathe. The idea was a Scifi dystopia, in the style of George Orwell's 1984, where the people of the world are controlled and monitored through mandated social networking.

Fast forward two years and I've self-published the book called The Singularity on the Amazon Kindle book store. It was a gruelling marathon finishing it and I almost gave up countless times, but it became a relentless obsession to get to the end. Typing with one hand whist rammed into a crowded tube can be a demoralising experience. But now that the race is over, I realise the next leg just begun. I now have to market the book. 

Fortunately we live in an incredible digital age where the man or woman on the street has incredible technology at their disposal and instant access to networks of people around the world. Technology has given us great potential, where with some time on your hands and opposable thumbs at your fingertips, we can create wonderful things and make the available to the world. 

Whether my book it is wonderful or worthy of a Writers Razzie Award is up to the public to decide. But I do feel that I have achieved a lot thanks to the world of digital, and as of this time of writing, The Singularity has had some success. It has been #1 in the free Amazon Books Scifi - High Tech category and #3 in the paid category.

For the benefit of aspiring authors and entrepreneurs, here are some tips on writing a book and marketing it yourself.


The writing is the hard part. First and foremost, if you have a good idea stick with it and don’t give up. I don’t recommend using an iPhone but given the close confines of the tube, this was the only device I could use without becoming a problem to fellow commuters.

I used Drop Box and the Docs2Go applications to write offline and then synchronise the updates to my online account. I did lose my phone at one point and having my hard labour backed up in the cloud was a life saver.


When it came down to editing the book I drafted in the help of friends and family. I had to use a desktop PC in the evenings to make use of Words tracked changes features. Doing this on the iPhone was impossible.


Publishing was the easy part. 

I created a Kindle Direct Publishing account on Amazon Kindle Store and added my bank details so that the money could pour in. (Still waiting)

I also created a cover by paying for and downloading a vector graphic from Shutterstock images.

Once I had all my materials together, I filled out a form on Kindle Direct Publishing site, entered the book’s name, description, chose the categories where it will appear and added a short description. I also chose how much I wanted to sell it for. Amazon has two options: a 75% royalty option and a 25% royalty option. I wanted to charge the minimum price for the book to get sales going so I opted for the 25% royalty option which allowed me to set a minimum price of 99 Cents. 

I also selected to be exclusively published on Amazon store which allowed me to promote my book for 5 days for free and give me access to some other publishing services. The free promotion is great if you want to quickly boost your book in the charts and give it visibility. 

After entering all the information and uploading the book in Word format, I submitted the book to the store and waited about twelve hours to be published.


Once the book was published, I needed to spread the word so I started with the free promotion. This worked well and very quickly my book was #1 in the Scifi charts under the ’High Tech’ category. After the promotion, book sales kept on trickling in and it is currently in the top 20 in the same category for paid books. When you read this, it may be different.

I also created a Facebook page dedicated to the book and invited all my friends. Quickly I had reached the amount of Likes to enable Facebook's ‘insights’ functionality where you can get a deep view into how your page and your posts are spreading across Facebook land. There are fascinating analytics around virality, engagement and social activity.

Facebook also allow you to pay for advertising of your page and you can create an advert and target at a very niche demographic. I chose males who were into sci fi and ran a capped promotion for five days. The advert gave me around 70 Likes. I’m not sure how many translated into sales but it was nice to feel loved. 
You can also boost your posts by paying for them to appear on people who like your page and their friends’ timeline.

It’s still early days and my book has been out for about two weeks. It has been a long road but a really interesting one where through hard labour and exploration into digital services available to the ‘everyperson’, I produced a product and marketed it entirely by myself.

Who knows where it will lead and how many good or bad reviews it will get, but, at the very least, I’ve learnt two important lessons. 

Firstly, the digital world has so much to offer entrepreneurs, small businesses and people who don’t have the funds or resource to call in the professionals. 

Secondly, we waste a huge amount of time on Angry Birds and I urge everyone to see what you could do with that time instead. 

Here are some links :

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