Self-Publishing Interview with Kyle Prevost

May 11th, 2015 by Potato

[Back to the first post in the Value of Simple self-publishing behind-the-scenes series]

To cap off the self-publishing series I have Kyle Prevost, co-author of More Money for Beer and Textbooks, and also the host of the similarly titled podcast. He writes for a few sites around the internet, these days you’ll mostly find him at Young & Thrifty and My University Money. More Money for Beer and Textbooks is an introduction to basic personal finance geared for university students, with tips on budgeting, saving money on textbooks, and using credit cards responsibly.

Kyle spoke to me twice about his experiences with MMfBT, once when I was getting ready to publish my book, and again just two weeks ago for this interview.

MMfBT has two authors, so the process for them was a bit different, having a built-in ability to do some substantive editing and review before looking to freelancers and beta readers. They did higher a copyeditor and layout person – found through O-desk – and used a site called 99 designs to get the cover created. The duo reached out to a number of students in their target demographic to read it at various early teachers, as well as bloggers, teachers, and counsellors – as seems to be the take-home message of this series, getting editors and beta readers can be crucial to having a polished, final product. Of course, Kyle cautions that “before going into beta you need to know what you want to achieve with your book and with each chapter and even paragraph. You will get change suggestions that may not be taking the book where you want to go, and even opposing changes.” Indeed, I can say from experience that sometimes the most important thing a change suggestion can be is a signal that a section has an issue – but the suggested change may not be the way you want to fix issue, given the story you have in your head as the author.

Copyediting was a bit of a challenge for MMfBT because Kyle tried to maintain a casual, approachable tone through the book, which means there has to be a balance between keeping some slang and unconventional word usage versus editing to totally proper English.

When it came time to publish, Kyle and Justin went with LightningSource (at the time IngramSpark wasn’t launched yet), and did order a set of proofs, which did reveal a few issues. Included in that was a choice to switch to a matte cover based on the glossy proofs. Again, just plan ahead to have to change something based on the proofs and consider the change fee spent. With LS they had a lot of flexibility over the wholesale discount, so they started with a minimal wholesale discount – enough to get picked up by Amazon, while letting them keep most of the spoils. A bit after launch they were picked up by Chapters, and changed the wholesale discount to a more conventional, bricks-and-mortar-friendly ~55%. And of course, they did register for cataloguing-in-publication and sent copies off to legal deposit.

When we talked about the writing process, Kyle told me that about 80% of the original writing happened in one summer. However it was a lot of time, “definitely there were weeks over 40 hours spent on the book.” Kyle estimates it was over 500 hours of work to put together, at least half of which was on editing. “Endless editing,” as he puts it. While you can start to build some momentum in writing, they found it harder to gain momentum in the editing phase.

They were fairly well-prepared for what was involved in self-publishing, with a starting budget of ~$500, aiming to not lose money. In the end, editing and outsourcing ran them closer to $1500, but the book was much more successful than they had hoped.

They shot through their initial sales goal of 500 copies in no time at all. Then an interview with CBC and a mention by Rob Carrick about three months after launch helped get them into Chapters stores, which led to book signings and talks at schools. Those were the most rewarding parts, having people come up to praise the book at signings. It wasn’t all serendipity: they put in their time calling Chapters outlets and local bookstores to get them to carry the book.

In the end, the book was not just a success in its own right, but served as a boost to everything else they did, adding authenticity and mainstream media attention. Plus his students were now impressed enough to actually listen to Kyle. “I would definitely do it again… but I’m not in a hurry to write another.”

“Be prepared for a long slog,” Kyle begins when I ask him for any advice he has for aspiring writers. “If you’re in non-fiction, the truth is most people don’t read books. You have to write to a niche that will, and gear the book to them.”

Thank you Kyle for speaking with me (twice!) about publishing and your experiences! Be sure to check out More Money for Beer and Textbooks.

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