I’m not sure if you know this about me yet, but I am a big-time aquarium nerd. I love, love, love my saltwater aquarium. In 2009, I started Saltwater Aquarium Blog. In 2012, I also began writing my first book on the subject, still unpublished. I have completed a first draft of that book, but as the author cliché goes, that draft has been sitting in my closet for about a year now.
For whatever reasons, I never got the book over the proverbial hump. I think it is a combination of fear of failure and self-doubt. Very early on in the book, I started self-editing and experiencing significant anxiety/concern. The negativity fed negativity. My internal debates sounded like this:
Everything on the blog is 100% free to consume—so what makes the content in the book so valuable that people should pay for it? So by those standards, the book HAS TO BE better than the blog—but how can I feed the blog and book both with content at the same time? If I agree that the book has to be better than the blog, then I have to save my best stuff for the book—but if I do that, then the blog will suffer.
I couldn’t find a way out of the argument—and it exhausted me, quite honestly. As I reviewed the first draft of the book with a critical eye, it wasn’t good enough—it had to be better. Rather than resolve the internal conflict, I think, I just put the job in my virtual closet and ignored it.
Fast-forward about a year. I was listening to a podcast, and the guest on the podcast talked about how much fulfillment they have had from publishing their work on the Amazon Kindle. With my aquarium book, I hadn’t exactly figured out the channel yet (I think I envisioned selling it directly on the blog), but this seemed to be as good of an approach as any. It was an opportunity to start fresh.
Rather than dust-off the old aquarium manuscript, I dove head-first into another one of my interests—the blog itself (or at least the aspect of creating a website).
The books pretty much wrote themselves. Compared to the laborious plodding along that the aquarium book took, the content for the website books came easily, and freely. It felt like I was writing content for a blog, more than it felt like a book that had the self-imposed high hurdle of needing to be better than the blog.
I had to figure out the technical aspects of publishing to Kindle, so I bought a book about the topic and hacked away. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it was going to be.
On July 4, 2013, I published my first book:
It was a liberating feeling to just launch the book with no expectations. Sure, I had my momentary delusions of grandeur, but I had no audience here to disappoint, no benchmark to beat, no self-imposed hurdle of quality. I certainly didn’t want to publish a turd, but I also knew that it wouldn’t matter if the world ignored it—or even worse—hated it.
Publishing a book is like playing a world-building video game.
For me, publishing that book was as addictive as playing one of those silly world-building video games. The kind of game where you do a bunch of activity and see if you can grow your little world—Amazon provides a dashboard report to show you how many copies of the book have been downloaded, and they also assign the book and the author each with an authority rank. I found myself refreshing the reports several times a day to check the progress of my sales rank.
In exchange for being exclusive to what Amazon calls their KDP Select program, they allow your book to be given away for FREE for up to 5 days in a 90 day period. This is like spraying lighter fluid on the already addictive game of see how well I rank today.
Amazon has an entire parallel universe of free book listings. They have list after list of top 100 categories by book type, and if you’re sick like me, you can watch as the book climbs the rankings. At one point, my book was outperforming Amazon’s own books on publishing for Kindle. It cracked the top 1,000 free books on all of Amazon. I couldn’t believe it. Sure, it was just the free section, not like I made internet millions with it, but it was still a great feeling to be somewhere in the general vicinity of the top of the heap. Yep, I am literally patting myself on the back right now—it is making it difficult to type.
That jazzed me up enough to start writing:
My second book, published on August 15:
This book was intended to fill in the gaps with everything else I have learned in my journey of building a website from scratch and filling it with content on a regular basis. In How to Build a Website…, my focus was about inspiring the reader to take action—because anybody can build their own website, and it doesn’t have to take long. In the Beginner’s Guide…, my goal was to provide a road map to building sustained success by doing the right things to make your website better.
The books were written to be stand-alone volumes, but also complementary in their content.
Overall, it was liberating to be able to create and publish these books. In the same way that I publish articles on Saltwater Aquarium Blog to help other people in the hobby learn as I learn along the way and (hopefully) avoid the mistakes I make. I hope these two books provide a framework for readers to learn from my experiences online.
I think I will write one final book in the Website space—and then return to my aquarium book, with a fresh energy and perspective. I at least know now what it is like to publish a book online. It’s not as scary as I thought. In my journey publishing those books to Kindle, I learned a lot about my voice as a writer, and I think the Aquarium book will be better off because of it.
Whatever your dream is—find some way to take action. I had no idea this was doing at the time I started writing them, but writing How to Build a Website and Publish Your First Page in Less Than 5 Minutes and Beginner’s Guide to Improving Your WordPress Website was a journey that helped me find my voice as a writer, and will hopefully help others realize their dreams of building a top notch website.
I hope you enjoy the books, implement the advice given and have great success online.