“I should have done this sooner.” I’ve read that line so often by people who thought of starting an on-line project. I understand. I should have done this sooner too. I’m adding myself to the lament list.
Whether it’s starting a blog, a website, an affiliate program, writing a book/ebook, a lot of people wonder why they didn’t start on any of these a month ago, last year, or many years ago.
My excuse? I was simply trying to figure out what I’d like to pursue. Like most other people, I’ve worn many hats: a self employed mechanic, technician, teacher, author, tech writer…you get the picture. Like everyone else, I have experiences that I can share.
Over the past years I’ve read a lot on the many ways that people take their talents to make money. “Find your strengths” is the common meme. It helps to look back on what we did and why we did. Why did we choose our careers? Was it out of passion or merely for the convenience for a decent paycheck? Did we enjoy going to work or dread being there?
I looked back on when I first capitalized on my skills as an auto mechanic. I didn’t have many skills under my belt when I arrived in California. I took off on my bike (motorcycle), and wasn’t too sure where I’d wind up. I kept going west, and eventually arrived in southern California and settled down. Despite the arid, comfortable climate along the coast (compared to the humid summers of Ohio), people would complain how uncomfortable it was if the temperature reached a balmy 80 degrees.
There was my opportunity. Being a mechanic, I turned to auto air-conditioning repair. I found an air-conditioning specialist to work for. It so happened that he had a mobile service route throughout northern Orange and southern L.A. counties. We stopped once (or twice) a week at smaller independent car dealerships and would repair the cars on the lot. Convenience for the car dealer, and low overhead for my boss (no brick & mortar business expenses).
I only spent one summer with him before he moved to Utah, but I learned about 75% of what I needed to know from him that year. Yes, having a mentor helps.
The next summer I packed up my car with the tools that I had and a small inventory of parts, and drove pretty much along the same areas to drum up business. With the right tools, and confidence in the knowledge that I had, I developed initiative that a promising business can bring.
I started to find my own dealerships to work with. I avoided the older ones we visited last summer, as my previous boss sold his customers’ routes to the new business owner. In time, I was kept so busy that I had to prioritize my schedule. And when I started my studies at Santa Ana College, I learned to further manage my time. That was pretty difficult.
I digressed (a bit) in my story, but I needed to remind myself how I furthered myself: I had a skill, found a niche, and capitalized on it. I took my expertise and interests, and built upon them.
Times change. People change. I’ve traveled a path today to where the only machines and technology I deal with anymore are computers and associated fields: internet, software, and whatever else peaks my interest. Yet, the core of my interest in computers + writing has resulted in a new niche that I’ve found = self publishing.
What lead my interests to self publishing? I’ve read and written a lot. I enjoy both. But could they be lucrative? The writing part can be. What intrigues me is that nowadays there are so many ways to get a book/ebook out there to millions.
When I did some preliminary research on the feasibility of writing to sell, I’ve found (surprisingly) that people really do take time to read despite the distractions we have daily in this digital world. (Just visit Amazon.com and browse the amount of sales of the best selling authors to see how many ebooks they’ve sold.)
People are getting more informed, educated, and entertained through independent authors. We all have something to say, which others can learn from. Conversely, we can now find most anything to read and learn from people that have something to say.
Where is this all leading? I’m curious how many others have thought about writing a book about their profession, their family, a novel, or personal passions that they have. I think most of us have given it some thought. It sounds so easy to make that dream come true. Write it, format it to an e-book, then place it on the web for next to no cost and “officially” become an author.
And how difficult can it be? I mean, you don’t have to send out your stories to a publishing house waiting to be “accepted”; you don’t have to deal with their contracts, or perhaps an agent (and their fees), and their cut of profits. The best things that you have is yourself and your computer.
Still think it’s difficult? Imagine the long, tedious hours that successful authors like Charles Dickens or Jane Austin (of many) must have experienced as they muddled through countless hand written scripts and edits. How many more of their great works would we have had if only they had a computer!
How lucrative can it be though?
Stephen King used the Internet to promote and sell his first book. Then, “In 2000 he [King] released the first ever mass market ebook, Riding the Bullet, which was downloaded by half a million readers in a couple of days.”  That’s impressive. (By the way, don’t be put off by King’s “The Plant,” his second online book offering. It’s about an editor in a paperback publishing house who becomes prey to The Plant. Just move all plants from your computer desk before you begin to write. First installments can be found on-line for free download.)
So, that answers the lucrative part. Yes, people do make money selling their stories.
But there are roadblocks that one must learn to navigate through. If you self publish, you need to know how to format and package an ebook for on-line sales. Amazon’s Kindle and the Apple Store, for example, have their own digital formats that you must adhere to.
Then there are considerations of what software you could use and for what purpose(s). Then there’s the marketing, perhaps the most important aspect. Without a plan to get your ebook out there in front of people, it’s about as good as dead in the water. It sounds overwhelming, as there’s so much to learn. But like any complicated learning process, we accumulate our knowledge with patience and focus day by day. (Thank you Sensei Cuong Hoang.)
I believe I have a head start on certain aspects of this publishing game; yet, am so woefully deficient in others. This is my start into the self-publishing arena. Feel free to stop by to visit and learn with me. I’m excited about it, and feel that it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
 Stephen King writes ebook horror story for new Kindle