Yay! YAY! It’s done! After several months of work on what was supposed to be an update but ended up turning into a rewrite, my second version of The Underground Guide to International Volunteering is done and ready to be shipped out into the world. Well, in PDF form, at least.
The thing has gone from 60 pages to just over 100 and I’ve added a tonne of new information, anecdotes, interviews, photos, and I’ve increased my recommended free and cheap volunteering opportunities from around 25 up to 80. I’ve been keeping a list of recommended places over the past four years and I’ve finally added them into the ebook. Places that I’ve come across in my travels or been recommended by other travellers, with a major focus on Africa. I’ve got some excellent interviews including a guy who supervises volunteers, a 75 year old couple who travel and volunteer for six months out of the year, and a dude who runs an orphanage in Africa.
It’s taken me a lot longer than expected but I’m proud of this new version! It’s funny how a simple edit to include a few more volunteering suggestions has turned into nearly doubling the size of the thing, but there you have it! I think I’ve been inspired a bit by the potential I see in self publishing for e-readers. I think there’s a great opportunity out there to reach a lot of people through Amazon’s Kindle marketplace alone, and that’s pretty much the only e-reader I know anything about. If you can produce a good book, set a good price, and figure out how to promote it within Amazon, then I think there’s a lot more potential for sales. Much more than flogging a PDF ebook on my website alone, which is what I’ve been doing so far.
Up until now I’ve been selling about 5 to 10 PDF versions of my ebook without doing anything at all. When I launched the ebook way back in March 2014 I did a little campaign of writing guest posts and soliciting reviews. So I guess I the ebook is out there on other people’s sites as well, but really that’s small potatoes compared with being able to have my book pop up on Amazon when people are actually searching for a book on volunteering. Plus I’m introducing an affiliate program (if you have a travel blog, you can join the affiliate program here) with a 50% share in the sale, so I’m hoping that will encourage a few more people to get on board and add the ebook somewhere on their site.
I’m not really sure what to expect with this new version but it’s part of my new earnings plan since paid links and guest posts are on their way out. So it’s one piece of the puzzle and I think it could potentially be a big one. I’m keeping my expectations modest. If I can earn around $100 a month on my old ebook without doing anything or having an affiliate program or having it on Kindle then I feel like I could reasonably hope for $300+ per month in sales. That would mean getting a lot of affiliates on board and figuring out how to market on Kindle. The Kindle version is nearly ready to go so once I get that version online, I’ll start posting about my experiences there. I’ve picked up a couple of ‘how to’ ebooks about selling on Kindle so I have a few ideas to try out and I’m excited to get started.
The Kindle stuff isn’t quite as straightforward as just busting out a PDF. That, I know how to do… Kindle is very new to me as a user and I don’t know anything about it as a publisher. But I’m learning! I bought How to Make a Killing on Kindle which seems to be the standard for information on selling your book on the Amazon platform. Plus I’m using a formatting guide from Smashwords which, so far, seems pretty straighforward. The formatting is almost done and then I’ll have to tackle the uploading part which will take a bit more research because, as the moment, I’m clueless. But the whole process seems very logical and, with a bit of time and patience, it’s not something a person really needs to outsource. At least, that’s what I’ve found so far. I could be ripping my hair out in a couple of days when I get to the uploading and troubleshooting stage.
I’m hoping to get the Kindle version up by early next work and I’ll start exploring the Amazon platform at that point. There’s a bit to it… it’s not only about putting a good book online on Amazon, there are some tricks and tips to getting your book seen and I’m looking forward to experimenting with them. One thing I think I’ll need to do is have a new cover designed. Something that’ll work better on a small, grey scale Kindle screen. So, still a bit to do before I launch on Kindle and that’s where I’ll really see the sales, I think. So I’m anxious to get it up there.
This stage is also a bit scary because I’ve been working on the new version for months now and it’s a pretty important piece to my new income puzzle. I’m nervous that I’ll put it out there and won’t really see much of an increase in sales. Which will make me lose faith in my second book idea for a Kigali-specific guide. In my mind I know I’m producing good books that will be very useful for their target markets but there are always the fears that maybe the markets are too small, or maybe I won’t be able to figure out how to get the book really ‘out there’, or maybe it’s not something that people will even like or find useful, despite the positive feedback I’ve been getting. I think that the writing part is half the work and this is where the fun and potentially frustrating promotion stage has to start and that’s not something I’m particularly experienced in. My strategy has always been to make something useful and let the quality speak for itself… but there’s a lot more to it and I’ll need to tap into my inner promoter to really be successful with this and that makes me nervous.
But it’s also exciting to try new things and I’m looking forward to learning! At the very least, I’ll learn how to format files for Kindle which is kind of cool. Cool for geeks, I mean. Do any of you have experience publishing for Kindle? Tips welcome!
Ok so that’s all from me! If you’d like a review copy of the ebook, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your blog’s URL and I’ll check it out and send you a copy.
If you’ve bought the old version of my ebook, send me an email to email@example.com with the email address you used for the purchase (so I can verify) and I’ll send you the new version.