Posts Tagged ‘Chen Lizra’
A year ago I set out to write my first book. I had previously written one chapter (Named “Getting Possessed” in My Seductive Cuba) which I showed a few publishers and agents, and got refusals. They told me a memoir will not sell well if I were not a huge celebrity, and that unless it was a story with a message of “against all odds” my chances of getting published were close to nil. Had a publisher picked my book, I would have gotten published three years down the road. This process was too long.
I went on another trip to Cuba that summer for work and constantly shared stories in my blog. It was my third year writing and I had gotten quite comfortable expressing my feelings publicly. The stories have become humorous, and it was like I found my own voice. That summer people started bugging me about writing my own book, saying they would buy it. I knew that it was time. So I decided to do it, not even knowing how or what it meant. All I knew was that I had something to say, that my book would be about Cuba and will create a shift, and that with the business skills that I have acquired in business school that I could market the book.
I came up with the concept and showed it to my most valuable “book warm,” i.e. dad. He pretty much said that my concept sucked and would not sell. He then gave me a few books to read and showed me what people really loved reading. It was cultural journeys through personal stories. I decided to write a travel guide about Cuba, a country I knew like a “Cuban” with a humorous twist. The difference would be that on top of the great traveling advice my most personal stories would make the readers feel like they knew the people and the culture.
For three months straight I dedicating about 14 hours a day to writing. It was an intense time in my life, but I needed to act fast and just get it out on paper. While writing the book I researched my options for publishing it. I looked into self publishing through self publishing companies and felt that they were collecting the money to produce the book but not really marketing it. The hard part is getting the book out there. Producing it seemed like the easy part to me. These companies all worked based on the Print On Demand (POD) model. They could not offer me what I wanted – a high quality book, beautifully designed in full colour, and full of graphics. It was too expensive as a POD, I needed to produce a big quantity to reduce the cost per unit.
This was the point when I decided that I’d do it all myself. I hired the best editor I could find that specializes in Cuba, Larry Luxner, the editor of CubaNews. He was worth every dime and helped me pull the book together. He made it flow and chopped the redundant parts. For three months we almost killed each other. I told him that at the end of the process I was demanding a divorce. But the process produced an excellent product like no other, and we are good friends now.
Next, I looked for a printing house that could produce the kind of book I wanted at a price that would allow me to make a profit. I interviewed a company in China, asked all over Vancouver, and finally concluded that the local shops were really outsourcing to a bigger company which they didn’t want me to know about. That’s why their prices were still too high. I located Friesens who works with all the big publishers. They offered me a quote that was unlike any other and taught me a great deal about publishing. So much so that I decided that the Chinese company was not worth pursuing at this time since it involved more risk of crossing borders, and only offered a small saving compared. Friesens was extremely professional. I was working with the best of the best.
While this was taking place I created a budget for the project and researched the hidden costs. I realized I needed a couple of tens of thousands of dollars to launch the project. It took me about a month and eventually I financed the project through bank loans and private loans from people who knew me and believed in me. I was ready to go for it, full force ahead!
Subsequently I searched around the globe for a designer – from Canada, to Europe, to the US, to Israel, and ultimately to Argentina – I searched for the one who could both create what I wanted and give me a killer deal. The designer in Argentina won the contract. She previously designed books, but nothing as complex. This meant more work for me working closely with her at the beginning, but as the project progressed she was able to pull it together with small revisions. She truly did an amazing job and the great reviews about the quality of the book are still rolling in.
The whole process had to be timed perfectly like an orchestra – the time we finished the editing, the design, testing files with the printing shop, planning the first run and so on. I had to integrate into my plan a week here and a week there to allow for things to fall apart. They always do in production!
While we were working on the creative side I was researching the distribution process and marketing of the book. This was an operation in itself because, for example, as soon as you list a book on Amazon.com, it locks you out of Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk. I had to deal with all three Amazons for weeks before I managed to overcome this restriction, which is due to distribution agreements. I had worldwide distribution rights but it did not make the process easier. As my sales rep at Friesens said: “Most people would have given up already. You are not a regular author.” And I replied:”I just need to battle it once!”
Add to this the complexities of needing a bank account in the US in order to work with Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. This should have been the easy part since I live in Canada. But it turned into a nightmare as banks were refusing me due to the book’s subject – Cuba, and the US embargo. The fact that the account was going to be used for selling a book and no money was going to Cuba did not change anything. It took three difficult months to overcome this challenge. Most people I know would have given up at this point, but to make a dream come true, I believe you have to fearless.
Eventually I have managed to build the distribution system, got myself a Canadian distributor, worked out some deals with local book stores and sent the book to printing, all while working on the marketing strategy. Once the books were ready, I had to ship them in Canada, to the US, and to the UK. This meant that I had to quickly learn some rules regarding crossing various borders and tax treaties.
The book launched successfully on August 30th 2011, exactly a year since I got started, and became instantly a bestseller on both Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. This was a huge achievement. The great reviews started flowing in. It was time to work on an incredible new site which we are about to launch the second week of October, an eBook in both Kindle and iTunes versions coming out around the same time, and more marketing efforts including a PR campaign and a virtual book tour starting Oct 3rd. And there is more to come.
But I have to admit that I don’t know that this process is for everyone. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I love the hunt. I also worked in the animation industry for eight years and graphically I know what I am looking for. Add to that my writing skills and my major in business school – marketing and international business – and you can see how this process is an expression of who I am. My best recommendation for people considering the full self publishing process is to ensure that they are truly committed. Once you commit there is no turning back. And things will never happen exactly according to plan. The smartest thing you can do is consider your book as your business card. On my horizon are a few consulting contracts that I am currently negotiating and I am always happy to consult those who wish to self publish their own book.
CHEN LIZRA started traveling to Cuba in 2005 in order to train with the island’s best professional dancers. Each year she finds more excuses to visit Cuba, discovering the culture from within and hanging out with her close friends.
Chen grew up in Israel and later moved to Canada. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing, which allowed her to turn her passion — Cuban dance and music — into an inspiring lifestyle for others through her company, Latidos Productions®.
Chen was selected as the Student Entrepreneur Champion for British Columbia in 2008. The following year, she was nominated as one of the “Women of Distinction in Vancouver,” and in 2010, she was named “Woman of the Month” by Modern Working Woman Magazine. In addition, the Australian government has honoured Chen with a distinguished talent permanent visa. She’s also been featured in numerous newspaper articles and TV shows.
Her latest book is My Seductive Cuba – A Unique Travel Guide.
Visit her website at www.myseductivecuba.com. Connect with her via her blog www.chenlizra.com, at Twitter at www.twitter.com/#!/MySeductiveCuba, www.twitter.com/#!/ChenLizra and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MySeductiveCuba.