Beyond the Margins

After having it sit as a back burner project for about three years, I finally published Beyond the Margins as a Kindle e-book last December, launching the paperback version one month later in January. As the subtitle of the book indicates, Beyond the Margins is meant to be an “an indispensable guide for first-time freelance writers” and other similar work-from-home professionals. It’s been a tough road, to be sure, but there is a definite sense of satisfaction to holding a book with your name on the cover.

Now that it’s been a few months, I thought I’d reflect on my experience in self-publishing my own book. It’s been quite different than when I co-authored Make Money Online with John Chow through a traditional publisher.

On the Writing, Formatting and Publishing Process

In terms of the actual writing itself, I did most of that through Google Drive (Google Docs). It provided me with all the core features of a word processor — like spell check, formatting and word count — while granting me access from anywhere I had an Internet connection. This was easily the most time-consuming part of the overall process.

Once I had my core manuscript drafted up, I conducted a little more research about where I could list and sell the book, as well as any formatting standards that would come into play. Getting the Kindle version ready was definitely easier. This was done via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which allows you to manage everything about your Kindle e-book. I thought about using a service like Smashwords to get the book out in front of more channels, but it’s undeniable that the Kindle is the current dominating force in e-books. This is true with their dedicated e-book readers, as well as through the Kindle apps for PC, iOS, Android and so on.

While I could have taken the time to learn about how to properly format a Kindle e-book, it was far more efficient (and relatively inexpensive) to pay a professional to do that for me. I also got him to format the paperback version for submission through CreateSpace. All I had to do was provide him with the Word document (as exported from Google Drive) and he did the rest; I just gave it a couple of read-throughs to make sure there were no errors. Similarly, I hired another professional to handle the cover design for both the Kindle and paperback versions. Again, these have to adhere to certain pre-defined standards, so professionals will already know exactly what they’re doing.

A big part of the reason why publishing the Kindle e-book was so much faster and so much easier is that Kindle is completely digital. I could proof the .mobi Kindle file instantly and the book would “go live” not long after I hit the publish button; it does take a few days to show up on Amazon for the first time, though. With CreateSpace and the paperback version, they had to print and ship a proof copy to me. That takes time and costs money. However, I absolutely feel like there is tremendous value in having a physical version of your book in addition to having the e-book.

On Interviews, Guest Posts and Marketing

After the book was officially “published” and listed on Amazon for purchase, I proceeded to purchase a box of author copies. I wanted to sell signed copies of the book to those who wanted them, These paperback copies also functioned as gifts for close friends and as marketing collateral.

Beyond the Margins, by Michael Kwan

It would not be at all fair to say that I went on any kind of “book tour” with Beyond the Margins. I did, however, go on a small “digital” tour in an effort to get the word out about my new book. For instance, I was interviewed by Joseph Planta for and by Lesley Chang for The goal is to get my book in front of new audiences who may not otherwise notice my tweets and Facebook updates, for instance.

To this end, I also wrote some guest posts on relevant blogs. These posts provide value to the readers on their own and the hope was that the readers could then be interested in more insight through the book itself. You may have seen my posts about how to avoid scams on John Chow dot Com, your many roles as a freelancer on Blogging Tips, and the home office technology you need on Smartlife Blog.

On Sales Tracking and Administration

Writing and publishing aren’t easy. Marketing is no cake-walk either. However, perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of publishing your own book is nervously checking your sales figures every day to see if your efforts have really accounted for anything.

Even though KDP and CreateSpace are technically Amazon companies, they effectively operate as independent companies. You deal with them separately, from signup to submission, through to actually getting paid. Not only do your royalties get split up between sales of your digital (e-book) and physical (paperback) book as a result, but even within KDP and CreateSpace, your royalties are also split up by currency.

Your Canadian sales ( are effectively separate from your American ( sales and this can be very frustrating on the whole. It’s more to track and it makes it more difficult to hit your payment thresholds. In the case of KDP, there’s not even a way to see your current “balance,” short of manually adding up all the amounts in each of your prior months’ reports.

Moving Forward

And that’s where I stand today. It’s been quite the learning experience and I hope to apply these lessons to any more books that I publish from here on out. Publishing your own book is not unlike the many other “Internet entrepreneur” endeavors you can attempt these days. It is certainly possible to make a lucrative living doing it, but this is reserved for a select few who are able to “make it.” Just like blogging, the barrier to entry is low and you need to have both the flexibility and perseverance to see it through.

Pick up your copy of Beyond the Margins on Amazon and support this humble freelancer. Give it a tweet. Tell your friends. Post your review on the Amazon page. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.