Peter Bowerman, The Well Fed Writer & Self-Publisher, on Making a Great Living as a Writer
An epiphany, a cakewalk, your ebook strategy and why you should use a compass. Peter Bowerman from the Wellfed Writer and the Wellfed Self-Publisher shares his method of self-publishing and becoming a well-fed writer with AuthorShock’s Debbie Jenkins.
Listen to the audio with visuals here…
In 1993, after a 15-year career in sales and marketing, Bowerman turned his sights to freelance commercial writing. With no industry experience, no previous paid writing experience and no writing background, he built a commercial freelancing business in Atlanta, Georgia from fantasy to full-time in less than four months.
His corporate client list has included The Coca-Cola Company, MCI, BellSouth, IBM, UPS, Holiday Inn, Cingular Wireless, DuPont, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, The Discovery Channel, Junior Achievement, Georgia-Pacific, The Cartoon Network, the CDC, The American Heart Association and many others.
He has published over 250 articles and editorials, leads seminars on writing and is a professional coach on both commercial freelancing business start-up and self-publishing.
Transcript from audio interview between Peter Bowerman and Debbie Jenkins of AuthorShock.com
Your books are brilliant, down to earth, sensible and funny. Do you think it’s important to “be yourself” when you write? Why?
If you’re boring and dull then being yourself isn’t beneficial. If you have a fun personality make sure it comes out. As a result of injecting personality the readability of my books is a strong suit. Lots of readers have mentioned it over the years – they say my books are good and memorable. Be engaging, have fun and let it come out in your writing. There’s a tendency for people to write in a stilted or wooden way. People say they feel like they’re sitting across from me having a coffee with when they read my books, they feel connected. People have called me up over the years with questions, they say they feel like they know me because of the books. If you’re not able to inject a personality then you should find a ghost writer to help you with your tone. Writing with personality makes the process more fun. Helps you connect with your readership – be quirky, fun, interesting! When people read my books they get an insight into my personality and beliefs – a broader perspective.
Your books focus on helping people become professional freelance writers and self-publishers. What do you think is the biggest stumbling block on the way to becoming a professional?
It took me just 4.5 months to get established as a writer. And this is for someone who started out with no writing background, training nor experience. Writing was paying all my bills in less than 4 months
- Must realise, this isn’t a cakewalk, it’s hard work. It’s a little difficult and people need to understand that any business that can make you upto $250 dollars an hour isn’t gonna be easy. If it were everyone would be doing it! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The arena of freelance commercial (companies who pay you to write for them) writing is one of the most accessible and lucrative arenas. There’s more money from companies than from publications like magazines.
- People sometimes get intimidated by the big name companies. Don’t put them on a pedestal, respect them,but don’t be afraid. If you’re smart and can think strategically it’s not hard to write and make a difference for big companies.
- Don’t think you don’t have the personality for this business. If you’re a creative person you may think you need to be all salesy. And there is an adjustment needed, but it’s not that difficult. Commercial freelancing or self-publishing successfully it’s far more about a process than an aptitude or a personality. It’s about the things you have to do, not have to be.
What are the 3 most important things a professional writer needs to understand about the business?
- Understand the vastness of the field. Writing for businesses has 3 arenas:
- B2C – what we see, adverts, brochures etc
- B2B – huge arena, getting a message out to customers, marketing materials
- Internal – communication with employees – newsletters, training material, reports etc…
- Understand WHY companies hire freelancers. For example: hiring companies don’t have to pay salary and benefits, they buy the skills they need when they need them, they get a fresh outside perspective without assumptions, and access to a wide range of talent.
- Budding commercial freelancers need to understand the mindset of the person hiring them – they are probably overworked, overextended, they don’t want to spend time looking for a writer. Fortune favours those who get themselves out there. Make sure you leverage past experience – even if you don’t have a wide writing experience, you may know the industry, the vernacular etc.
You offer additional ebooks when people buy your books from your website. Why?
Ebook strategy, in particular for Peter’s Self-Publishing books:
- I incentivise people with a free ebook from my website so they buy from my site instead of other sources (makes me a higher margin)
- I created companion ebooks that go along with the hardcopy – the print book is $20, a toolbook is $20 if they buy with the book or $30 if they buy separately, also there’s a timeline tool $8 if they buy with the book or $15 separately. Also I offer the ebook version of the main book. 2/3 of people will buy one/more or all of the ebooks. This ups the profit margin by about 20-25%.
- If you are considering writing a How To book what can you add that people will be prepared to pay more for?
- For the print book 5000 units cost $12000-$13000, I broke even after 45 days of releasing the book due to the e-book strategy.
What one thing do you wish you knew when you started out in publishing?
Self-publishing is a lot of work, I have been told my The Well Fed Self Publisher http://www.wellfedsp.com book is a great game plan to follow. Go step by step and build the book, go through the processes. It takes time and money, if you have no money then doing self-publishing the way I describe isn’t for you.
I had an epiphany recently and wrote an article – contact me for it if you want to read more, it’s called: The Number 1 Book Marketing Strategy Of All Is… TO WRITE A REALLY GOOD BOOK!
If you write a really good book (topical, relevant, detailed, real world, information, spells things out, fun and lighthearted to make it easily and enjoyable, that’s packaged well) – you will recruit an army of unofficial sales people who will be singing your praises. Your goal is to make your book better than it has to be to make your marketing so much easier. Lots of people write books that just aren’t that good. They struggle to pump up the promotion. A book that just isn’t that good won’t get word of mouth. Do everything in your power to write a good book – you have 100% control over that outcome.
What’s next for you?
I never plan things out nor set goals.
I recommend a book called: Goal Free Living – this is how I live my life. A chapter called “Use a compass not a map” sums it up – know the general direction, but not the exact route. Using a compass you look up – using a map you look down and miss things along the way. Everything unfolds organically, at the right time for me.
I’m also doing more teleseminars and group coaching. I revamped my website http://www.wellfedwriter.com/ have a look at the cartoon.
I discovered something cool – commercial writing/self-publishing – it gives me the lifestyle I desire. I wrote the books because I thinks other people would love this lifestyle too. Take a first step and see where it leads.
Contact & Free Downloads
- The Well Fed Self Publisher by Peter Bowerman: http://www.wellfedsp.com
- The Well Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman: http://www.wellfedwriter.com
Peter has generously offered 2 ebooks, which you can claim for free here.
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