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A few weeks ago I interviewed a fiction writer with extensive experience in self-publishing. Today, we learn from John Svazic, who offers a wholly different perspective as the author of “Growing the Money Tree- Financial Freedom One Leaf at a Time.”
Self-publishing non-fiction has long been a successful venture, especially if the topic is well-defined, with a clear niche audience. Non-fiction by self-published authors must have a clear directive, and an author bio that backs up the publication. In the case of John Svazic, founder of ARM Trading who has traded on the foreign exchange market for ten years to grow his own money tree, this experience is clearly visible, offering readers the security they need to pick up his book for solid investment advice and strategies.
“Growing the Money Tree” is meant as a resource to debunk personal finance, which is often viewed as a complex and difficult topic that should be left to professionals. From John’s personal experiences, as well as those of friends and family, he saw this as the wrong attitude to have. Finding a way to simplify these mundane and often secretive tasks, John has put his findings into his latest work, Growing The Money Tree.
John has worked in a variety of roles throughout his life, ranging from a vacuum cleaner salesman, a vertical plane engineer, a professional software developer, a manager as well as a martial arts instructor. His passion for technology, love of sharing his knowledge as well as a strong desire to help others when they feel frustrated has led him to his latest career as a book author.
Growing The Money Tree was written to give one way to show the average person how they can begin to grow their own money tree to find financial independence.
The incredible opportunity of self-publishing is the ability to find and invest in a niche, whether fiction or nonfiction, that did not exist before, and to present material to an audience as broad as the reach of the internet by pursuing a personal passion that is marketable. As such, the range of opportunities for self-publication is immense.
Read on for the insights of a non-fiction author who has found success catering to the financial market, while maintaining a high-stress day job at the same time!
Q: What is your favorite book?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I have loved his work since I was a teenager reading “The Sandman” comics published by Vertigo.
Q: Do you have a day job?
I’m a Chief Security Officer for a software company called Axonify. That’s my main day job while I let my money tree grow.
Q: When you began the process of writing your book, had you ever heard of self-publishing?
I was aware of self-publishing before I wrote my book. I was actually originally going to go with Lulu.com as my publishing host, but shortly after I started to write my book I looked at some reviews for Lulu and found that their hardcover options were not very good. Also, my artist was confused by their cover template designer. After a bit more research I learned about CreateSpace and Lightning Source, which is how I ended up using both of those services. This was important, since I had a lot of legwork to do in order to use these services properly.
Q: What are the benefits of self-publishing in your daily life?
Self-publishing was really my only option as far as I was concerned. I wanted to write a book to share my experiences and give something to my children to remember me by. Given the topics that I cover in the book (investing, artificial intelligence and a short autobiography) I figured most traditional publishers would have turned me down and I wasn’t interested in making a new career as an author. Given all of this, self-publishing took the pressure off of looking for acceptance of my work and instead put it on finishing my work and then marketing it.
Q: What is the greatest struggle you face as a self-published author?
Marketing. Hands down getting the word out about my book is more time consuming than writing the book itself. I did struggle a bit with the writing of the book (using LaTeX to prepare the work definitely saved me a lot of hassle when working with Lightning Source, since they required very specific PDF dimensions, compatibilities, etc. CreateSpace was a lot more lenient, but they didn’t offer a hardcover format which is something that I wanted. Learning LaTeX, finding the right commands, a good editor, adding a glossary, bibliography and index were all challenges when I was writing the book, but getting the word out is definitely a lot harder.
Finding an audience was something I thought would be simple. Personal finance, investing and foreign exchange have a broad enough audience that I thought it should be pretty straight-forward. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as clear as I had hoped.
Q: How do you overcome these struggles?
I haven’t yet. I continue to lurk on Forex forums and Reddit, looking for an opportunity to let people know about my book. I’ve advertised on Goodreads, Reddit, Facebook and Google AdWords with no real success. Goodreads was great for getting the word out about a book giveaway. Lots of people added my book to their “to-read” bookshelves, but I haven’t seen this translate into any actual sales as far as I can tell. Ads on Reddit received a number of downvotes in /r/personalfinance and /r/investing, so clearly those were not subreddits that were interested in my book. I did get a few sales, but not enough to cover the costs of the ads.
Facebook generated a number of Likes and fans, but again just a few sales that didn’t cover the cost of the ads. I did have some credits, so that helped. Ditto for Google AdWords, I spent my credits and drove some traffic to my book’s website, but no real sales to account for them. What I find has helped is letting people know about the book in subtle ways, responding to questions or even providing giveaways. Blogging regularly also helps, as I try to blog about topics that are covered in the book. I tend to blog about once a week. If I miss a week, however, I can definitely feel it. I also tweet and re-tweet interesting articles and posts to help generate traffic, so that’s also helping a bit.
Q: Did you work with a paid editor?
I did hire an editor to go through and proofread my book. Early access copies were also given to some friends who nit-picked anything that was missed. These “early reviews” helped an awful lot, especially when the topic is “foreign” to the editor.
Q: Did you work with a graphic designer on the book cover?
I worked with a graphic designer friend of mine. It took a few months of back-and-forth to get the design just right, but that worked out well since it took my editor took nearly two months to finish reviewing my book.
Q: Do you have more Kindle or e-Book sales?
eBook sales (Kindle only, as I’m part of the KDP Select program that gives Amazon an exclusive on Kindle for 90 days) are definitely stronger than paperback or hardcover. This isn’t surprising as the price is lower, the quality is equal, and it is instantaneous.
Q: What is the most rewarding element of self-publishing?
Seeing a published book and holding it in your hand. That is an amazing feeling.
Q: Did you publish through Amazon?
Yes, I published through Amazon’s CreateSpace service. It’s popular because it’s easy – they literally can do everything for you if you are willing to pay them. If you can do most/all of the work yourself then you can save a bundle since they don’t charge for anything unless you go for extended distribution. Compared to someone like Lightning Source, they are a much more cost-efficient option for someone who can do nearly all the work.
Q: How did you decide to price your book?
I looked at similar books in the same genre and decided to price similarly, but still within reason. Lots of Forex and investing books carry a higher sticker price, but end up getting discounted heavily. I stuck with a reasonable price that didn’t feel like I was gouging my readers.
Q: Did you work with a company to self-publish your book?
No. The thought did cross my mind, but when I looked at some of these companies (Lulu.com was one of them) the prices were outrageous! I figure I saved myself at least a few thousand dollars going at it alone based on some of the “packages” that these other companies offered. A little effort goes a long way, and it really can be done on your own.
Q: What kind of support would you like for self-published authors?
– A list of self-publishing printers (i.e. CreateSpace, Lightning Source, Lulu, etc) with a pro/con list for each
– A list of “self-publishing” resources like editors, artists, etc
– A list of tools that can be used for publishing (i.e. LaTeX, Word, Adobe InDesign, etc)
– A list of book reviewers once your book is published
– Marketing tips and tricks (in general, since there will always be special cases)
– Advice from other authors who have been successful, preferably both fiction and non-fiction authors
Speaking with John shows that the struggles of self-publishing can often revolve around marketing, even when a potential audience is found, reaching out beyond the screen can be very difficult. With both fiction and non-fiction, finding a niche and exploiting the market to publicize yourself and your book is incredibly important, as well as branding yourself and your book.
Please check out John’s work on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Growing-The-Money-Tree-Financial/dp/0987953028