How writing a bestselling book changed my life (hint: it’s not what you think)
Thinking of writing a business book?
It’s not always a case of ‘write a book, publish a book, go back to the day job’. I share my experience of the post-book-launch rollercoaster.
We hear it all the time: writing a book is the best way to position yourself as an expert in your field. Daniel Priestley* has a lot to answer for!
But I didn’t set out to do that.
Having worked in marketing for almost 30 years – and been a freelance copywriter for 23 of those years – I already had a pretty decent personal brand, and an even better social media presence.
It was never about me. (And call me cynical, but most books written with an end goal of elevating the author’s profile come across as just that.)
Unlike most people, I always believed I didn’t have a book in me, so no one was more surprised than me when the idea to write one temporarily took over my brain.
In 2020, I wrote my first self-published bestseller, Survival Skills for Freelancers. Since its launch, it’s helped freelancers and entrepreneurs in more than 20 countries grow in confidence and get more enjoyment from self-employment – without getting sucked into the six-figure hustle.
I knew from others who’d published business books that I wouldn’t make my fortune from self-publishing. My financial expectations were – quite honestly – pretty low.
But I wasn’t motivated by money.
I was motivated by using my 20+ years of experience to help others tackle the challenges and avoid the pitfalls of self-employment. The stuff no one talks about. Because there are plenty of books on the practicalities of self-employment, but still not enough (IMO) on developing the right mindset for success.
A mindset that prioritises your mental and physical health so you can do your best, most creative and most fulfilling work. A mindset that centres on setting boundaries, saying no, outsourcing, charging your worth and dealing with imposter syndrome.
I’d lived this stuff. I’d made the mistakes.
I could share my experience to help others do better.
And somehow that message just resonated.
People shared (and still share, two years later) the book on their social media. They wrote incredible reviews, explaining how Survival Skills for Freelancers had helped them grow in confidence and become more successful. They even shared stories of how the book had given them the confidence to take the leap into freelance life!
Call me naive, but I just thought I’d write the book, publish the book, and go back to the day job.
But that’s not what happened…
People invited me to talk to their book clubs, to deliver webinars and Q&As, to guest on their podcasts – even to become a mentor (which I did for both the FreelanceHER 100 project and the government’s Help To Grow scheme).
I’d never done any of this stuff before. I wasn’t sure I had the confidence to do it, frankly – but it turned out I could. And I was pretty good at it, too!
I said a big fat yes to every opportunity that came my way.
And I was loving it – but it wasn’t all positive. I became hooked on helping others become more successful, while completely overlooking my own success.
(Plus engagement is validation, right?!)
Most of the opportunities I was saying yes to didn’t pay – and I took my eye off the ball when it came to my copywriting work: the work that pays the bills.
The situation became so bad that clients I’d worked with for years began to say, “Looks like things are going great for you. But are you still doing the copywriting?”
As a result of the confusion, my income plummeted. Like, badly.
I’d been letting other people’s expectations eat away at me, and was feeling the pressure of should.
You know what it’s like:
- “You should monetise your network and create a paid membership group!”
- “You should design an online course, to capitalise on your knowledge.”
- “You should create a suite of passive income products, so you can make money while you sleep!”
I even paid someone a tidy sum to help me create these things – and it was only after I’d had three sessions that I realised it wasn’t what I wanted.
I missed spending my time writing websites, and transforming my clients’ documents.
My superpower. The work that makes me happy.
I’d lost my balance, but I didn’t want to let anyone down! Where did I draw the line?
Two years after the launch of Survival Skills for Freelancers, I had a lightbulb moment.
I was attending a goal-setting session run by Ruth Gilbey in her Online Business Collective, when she asked participants to write down the things we wanted to let go of – anything we’d stopped enjoying, or that wasn’t serving us.
It was time to let go of that pressure. I didn’t have to start a membership, become a coach or create an online course. I could get back to the copywriting work I love, and that I earn a good living from.
And sure – I could still do the webinars, talks and workshops… but it was time to take my own advice and stop doing them for free!
It was a revelation.
Letting go freed me up the headspace and time to refocus on the work I love.
And rather than feeling pressure to write a sequel to Survival Skills for Freelancers, I found myself revisiting an idea I’d had back in 2016: to create a book that unites my much-loved #confusables tips in one place…
In August 2022, I launched The Little Book of Confusables: 300 pages jam-packed with fun, essential spelling and usage tips to help you remember 600 confusing words.
A year later, The Little Book of Confusables won GOLD in the eLit book awards and Distinguished Favourite in the NYC Big Book Awards – and was awarded Best Stocking Filler in WI Life (which has 250,000 subscribers).
It has sold in 21 countries worldwide, and is loved by language professionals, business owners, crossword fanatics and trivia lovers everywhere.
There’s no doubt that publishing my books has changed my life – just not in the ways you might have expected.
This time round? I’m keeping my eye on the ball.
*Daniel Priestley wrote a well-known book called Key Person of Influence, in which he recommends writing a book as just one tool to help position yourself as a leader in your field.
A reality check!
People think you can get rich from writing a book. Maybe if you have the profile, the resources and the marketing budget of a New York Times bestselling author… or the back catalogue of Stephen King!
For context, The Little Book of Confusables has a cover price of £11.95. From that, I make £7.17 a copy – that’s 60% in royalties. Not bad, eh? Until you deduct printing costs – and I’m left with a poxy £2.97 a copy!
The only way I’m getting rich from my books is if I sell them in the tens of thousands… anyone fancy placing a bulk order?! 😁
Got a brilliant idea for a business book? Need a helping hand to get you started?
If you’re feeling fired up to write your own business book but have a head full of questions, get in touch.
My 60-minute book clarity calls are your chance to borrow the brain of an award-winning, bestselling business book author, to kick-start your writing journey and get clear on your next steps.
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Discover my magical book powers for yourself
As founder of Seven-Figure Consultant, Jessica Fearnley, said:
“Sarah has magical book powers!
“We spoke when I was feeling a lot of clarity about my book concept, but a lot of uncertainty about the format and the details. Sarah was able to help untangle my thoughts and was a brilliant sounding board. I don’t think she could quite believe how much progress I had made the next time we spoke!”
Book your business book clarity session and make this the year your book comes to life.
No more confusing words!
The Little Book of Confusables is jam-packed with simple, memorable, fun spelling tips for 600 commonly confused words – from ACCEPT + EXCEPT to YOUNG + YOUTHFUL.