Want to Self-Publish a Book? Here’s How Laura Did It

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Did you know that the AfterCollege Blog team is composed of a Literature major (Melissa) and a Creative Writing major (Kellen)? So there’s a little proof for you that at least two English majors found gainful employment after graduation.

But if you’re thinking that you’d like to self-publish a book, establish yourself as an independent writing professional, or maybe even start your own business, you’ll definitely want to read our interview with Laura Pepper Wu, Co-founder of 30 Day Books and Editor of The Write Life Magazine. After majoring in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Bristol in the UK, Laura established 30 Day Books, a publishing imprint and book studio. We caught up with Laura to find out about the exciting projects she’s working on and how you can pursue a similar path.

What is 30 Day Books?

30 Day Books is the name of the umbrella company that I operate all of my various writing and publishing related projects under. It started off as the publishing imprint name for 30 Day GMAT Success, the very first book I self-published (written by my husband, Brandon).

Our thinking in the beginning was that 30 Day Books would be the imprint for a series of books that would teach hobbies and skills within 30 days, sort of like the Dummies guides. Like many small businesses however, we’ve pivoted and changed direction several times since then!

We did self-publish eight books, but we’ve also done several other things; taken on PR and marketing clients, built websites for authors, taught online classes, and founded a digital writing magazine.

We call 30 Day Books a “book studio,” because we love everything that surrounds the writing and publishing of books. That’s really the only common thing that ties all of our projects together.

What is The Write Life Magazine all about?

The Write Life Magazine is an inspiring and instructional lifestyle magazine for writers, available online and on the App Store. Fusing writing and lifestyle, we cover everything from coffee, food, and travel, to writing news, advice, and trends in publishing.

It was born from two major things. First, my love of digital media and the exciting things I see happening with magazines on the iPad. I’ve always loved magazines, but know that print magazines have huge overheads and an uncertain future ahead of them. iPad magazines on the other hand are becoming increasingly popular, and the tablet market is a huge one that can’t be ignored. I love the interactivity of tablet magazines—the fact that you can embed music and video, click through to a website, buy a product right away, say hi to the writer of an article on Twitter. It’s such an exciting medium!

The reason I started The Write Life Magazine in particular was because I felt there was a hole in the market for writers like me. There are some great writing magazines out there, but none of them truly spoke to me, just a gal who loves writing. What was out there was either too focused on the craft of writing, or simply aimed at an older audience. I created exactly the kind of magazine I wanted to read; a lifestyle magazine for writers that is still practical and informative, but it’s also sassy, fun, and soulful!

What are your major tasks and responsibilities at 30 Day Books?

I wear many hats! The 30 Day Books team is essentially myself, my husband, and a few contractors that we work with on a project basis. So I’m in charge of everything from website design to blog and newsletter content, creating new products and classes, writing books, and working with authors on their marketing. I also have some clients that I help with on content marketing, branding, and PR strategy. There’s plenty to be done and I love it all!

There’s also the magazine which we publish bi-monthly. For that, I choose the theme, find our writers, edit, and help with production. I also do the PR and marketing for it, which involves social media, guest posting, video interviews, designing infographics, and more.

Which skills, education, or experience would you say were most helpful in your career so far?

When I first started the business, I made a point of reading everything I could get my hands on with regards to starting an online business. I learned how to build WordPress websites, about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click Advertising, social media, copywriting, newsletter writing, and lots more.

My first two years involved a lot of trial and error while I put into practice what I was learning about, and I often feel like that was my business school; two years of self-taught classes!

I also enrolled in some great classes geared towards female business owners. The ones I highly recommend are:

What was your college major? How does it relate to your career path?

I got a joint degree in Experimental Psychology and Philosophy. The truth is, I really wanted to major in English, but I thought that a Psychology degree would be more practical. I don’t regret my degree choice at all, but I do feel passionate about telling young people that an English degree is a highly useful one, especially in the digital era where words and communication have never been so important.

My degree relates to my career path in that I had so many written assignments—I was probably writing 10,000+ words most weeks. That certainly got me used to writing and researching like a crazy gal!

Also, there is a lot of psychology in marketing, which I use every day in my business, and in helping other authors to market and promote their books.

You’ve self-published a few books. What was that process like?

The production part of self-publishing books is easy, and it’s getting easier all the time. It’s what comes next that’s the hard part—spreading the word about your book. Social media, blogging, and understanding basic marketing and PR principles can be a huge help if you have a good book and a hungry audience. That has been quite the learning experience, and again one full of trial and error.

What advice would you give to college students interested in pursuing a career path similar to yours?

Just get out there and start something!

My business and work has changed and evolved so much over the last four years, but I trust my gut on whether I’m heading in the right direction, and constantly check in with myself. I don’t think you need a five or ten year plan to start a small business; you just need a desire to do good work, the hustle to get out there and meet people in order to create opportunities, and the confidence to try new things and not worry about failure. Decide what you want to do with your greatest talents—the ones that you could spend all day doing and time would fly—get a website up, and let the journey begin. You don’t need to have it all worked out in the beginning if you have the drive.

What’s something you wish you’d known about writing a book/publishing before you’d started?

With regards to non-fiction books, I wish I’d known to start a blog first, and then see which topics take off on it. The two books I spent the most time writing haven’t sold as much as the others, probably because I wrote them pretty much in a vacuum. The two that were basically blog posts that became really popular and so I expanded them into short eBooks are my biggest sellers. I guess the lesson here is to give the people what they want!

What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m working on a series of video interviews with experts in the writing and publishing industry that will be published on our YouTube channel. I’m also working on a book that will introduce English majors and other wannabe writers to careers in writing. I’m so excited about that one—I really wish I’d had that 10 years ago! And then there’s The Write Life Magazine, which is an ongoing project since we publish bi-monthly. Never a quiet moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Homework time! Laura mentions the importance of starting a blog to find out which topics appeal to readers. Why not check out one of the free platforms like WordPress, Blogger, or Medium and get your ideas out there? If you need a little extra encouragement, check out this guest post by Christine Barba about the amazing things she’s learned since starting her blog, Project Light to Life.

The Write Life

Want to learn more about Laura and her projects? Find Laura on Twitter, Pinterest, and check out her class on book marketing and promotions and The Write Life Magazine on Facebook and in the App Store.

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