This summer I wrote a 138-page book for new and intermediate iPhone users. Take Control of iPhone Basics, iOS 4 Edition, is part of the Take Control series of ebooks (also available in print editions) published by Adam and Tonya Engst at TidBITS Publishing. I’d edited two books for them, and was thrilled when Tonya asked me to take on a writing project myself.
The writing process is iterative: You outline, you research topics, you write sections, you get technical and editorial reviews, and you rewrite. At the end it was tweak, tweak, tweak — plus another round of research and writing to cover the updated operating system for the iPhone.
Maybe you’re not supposed to say this, but I totally enjoyed writing the book.
I also enjoyed, as the writing gave way to editing, developing a modest marketing plan for the book. I didn’t want to find myself in the place where I’ve seen so many authors land: The book goes live, but there’s no support material. Fortunately, Take Control does a fabulous job of creating a book/author page and sending out targeted press releases. But I knew I needed to do much, much more.
In July, as I was researching the book, I started the iPhone 4 Tips blog. I used it to write about iPhone accessories, apps, news, and research that didn’t quite fit into the book. Now it includes some information about the book itself — plus the updates to the ebook that Take Control will be issuing. (A huge “thank you” to the makers of the magical DoubleTake software I used to stitch together multiple screenshots to create the graphic for the blog’s header.)
I ordered business cards for the ebook. The problem with using my own business cards is that most prospective customers for the book don’t want to reach me — they want to buy the book. Making them email me, or go to this website — or even to the iPhone 4 Tips website — and hunt around for a link to the ebook is obviously not the way to make sales. The card has the URL for the Take Control sales page. I’ve since met several fiction authors who use book business cards, complete with graphics from the book’s cover.
My marketing plan included a list of my existing social media identities: Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and some specialized professional lists. I drafted little blurbs for each that I used, with a bit of modification, when the book came out earlier this week. I’m still working my way through that list, crafting blurbs that are appropriate for each list. It’s difficult not to feel that I’m spamming people, so I’ve carefully studied the way that each community handles this type of announcement.
My partner, Tom, is an established member of two major web communities; his postings about the book on those sites, using short budURLs I created, have been more effective than mine in generating click-throughs.
Now we get to the interesting part: What went, not wrong, but not at all the way I’d expected?
First, I sprained my ankle the day before the book went live, which meant that I was implementing the PR plan while alternately in severe pain or pretty thoroughly drugged. I used a proofreader.
Second, there were radio interviews. I’d been lining up some speaking engagements, but somehow overlooked the radio and podcast world. I found out that Take Control authors get invited to be on some of the major technology shows. The irony here, of course, is that my book is less for geeks than it is for the people who pester geeks when they can’t find their email.
Chuck Joiner, of MacVoices, made my first radio interview a delightful experience. You can stream or download the interview.
Audio interviews require earphones and a microphone, I discovered. Fortunately, I have top-of-the-line noise-canceling earphones. I was not as well prepared on the microphone front — deep in my closet I found a box labeled “audio” that contained an ancient, cheap USB mic with a flimsy plastic mic stand. Fortunately, it worked (taped firmly to the desk), even when the cat leaped on the desk in the middle of the taping and began gnawing on it.
As for the content of the radio interviews, I’m realizing that I need more preparation. More on that, later.