Why & How I Self-Published The Remote Work Era

Why & How I Self-Published The Remote Work Era

Curious about self-publishing? Wondering if it’s the right path for your book? I'm sharing an insider’s perspective on preparing my book for self-publishing with Amazon KDP and explain the reasons behind my choice to self-publish.

Published on Jan 10th, 2021 by Rhiannon Payne

For a first-time author, there’s nothing quite like the moment when you get to hold a physical copy of your book in your hands.

I worked toward that moment for two years. Finally, in the last week of 2020, I was able to hold my book in all its glory.

(Note: this blog was originally published on Medium in 2021.)

It was incredible.

Celebrating the last day of 2020 with my book!

A lot went into the process of writing and publishing The Remote Work Era, and I’ve received a lot of questions from curious friends and aspiring authors along the way. So I thought I’d share how and why I went about self-publishing and outline the overall process here (I will probably do more detailed blog posts about specific parts of the process in the future).

First, why a book for women to go remote & thrive?

The Remote Work Era is the guide for women to go remote and thrive in the new age of work. The topic of remote work was more relevant than ever in 2020, but I actually started doing research and planning for this book at the end of 2018 while preparing to give a talk at the European Women in Technology conference. That talk, titled “The New Distributed Workforce,” was the inspiration and basis of this book.

At the European Women in Technology conference in Amsterdam, November 2018

My journey to get The Remote Work Era to market was full of starts and stops as I dealt with burnout and issues in my personal life, but I kept returning to my manuscript because the mission was so important to me. COVID-19 drove that home even more and pushed me to finally make this dream a reality.

As I explain in the preface of my book:

I knew that if I was going to write a book about the Remote Work Era, the moment was now. In the early days of the COVID lockdown, the events that were unfolding had me glued to my phone. I watched on social media as more and more friends started working from home, most for the first time. On the opposite side of that, I had friends who were losing their jobs, asking me if I knew of remote work opportunities or if I could give them advice on how to get a digital job.

The workforce was changing before our eyes, for worse in the short-term. But, I could see a world of possibilities opening up for remote work after COVID.

2020 was, from a global perspective, probably the worst year any of us can remember. But the sudden switch to working from home also offered a new perspective on what is possible in spite of the hardships, expanding people’s horizons for what it means to work and new ways to shape their lives.

In the book, I explore how this workforce shift can be particularly impactful for women and marginalized workers — outside the context of forced remote work during a pandemic and shutdown, which was incredibly harmful. In normal times, remote work empowers people to work from anywhere and have more options for managing responsibilities like childcare.

But my biggest reason for publishing The Remote Work Era was my own journey and how remote work completely changed my life.

When I dropped out of high school at 17 due to mental health challenges, I had no idea what to do with my career. For years I floated around different retail jobs with no real purpose. But at 20, I started working on digital creative projects and collaborating with others online. This allowed me to prove my skills and get my start in the tech industry, which eventually led me to start a remote business that earned over $250K in its first year — all while traveling the world. (I tell the full story in chapters 1 and 8 of my book.)

The Remote Work Era is a step-by-step guide to successfully working online, but it’s also a love letter to remote work and everything it has enabled me to do. As I share in the book:

I hope I [can help] you design a life and career that are more flexible and fulfilling, whatever your goals and aspirations are. That is what remote work has done for me.

Why I self-published & what distribution channels I chose.

The Remote Work Era is available in e-book and paperback on Amazon

Over the two years I spent working on this project, I had a lot of thoughts on the best way to package, publish, and distribute it.

My plan back in 2018 was to put together a PDF guide for women who aspire to be remote workers and digital nomads and distribute it as a download on my website. As I began outlining the content and interviewing women remote workers, I realized that this would be a much greater effort than I originally anticipated and that The Remote Work Era deserved to be an actual book.

So, I ventured into the world of self-publishing. I did consider trying to find an agent or publisher to represent me, but I’m used to doing things myself and taking untraditional paths in life and business. As a first-time author without much social media clout, I also felt like it would be an uphill and potentially discouraging battle to find someone in the publishing world to take a chance on me. Once I saw how easy it was for independent authors to sell e-books and print-on-demand paperback versions of their work with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), there was no more deliberation. Despite my dislike for Amazon as a corporation, I realized this would be the best option for The Remote Work Era.

Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard
The Remote Work Era live on Amazon

KDP isn’t the only platform for distributing self-published work, but it’s likely to be the largest sales channel for any independent author. Because Amazon makes up upwards of 2/3rds of the e-book market, you can get away with only publishing through KDP, but I also plan to submit my book to IngramSpark, which offers broader distribution through retailers like Barnes & Noble online, independent bookstores, and libraries.

If you follow this route (KDP + IngramSpark), it’s a good strategic decision to start with Amazon and wait to submit to other distribution channels. By selling exclusively through Amazon to start, authors can get higher royalties and more visibility for the e-book version of their books through the KDP Select program. I’ve been live on Amazon for almost a month now and will probably wait another 2–3 months before submitting to IngramSpark.

It’s also important to know that you will have to submit different versions of your book’s pages to KDP and IngramSpark since they have different formatting requirements. I strongly encourage working with a designer to get this right (I get into this more below, but if you’re looking for a designer, I worked with Hannah Priscilla Craig).

In February or March, I will also be releasing an audiobook version of The Remote Work Era through ACX (it will be available to purchase on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes). My audiobook is being narrated by Stephanie Willing. Many authors read their books themselves, but after letting the writing and publishing process take over my life for ~9 months, I realized I needed to ask for help with the audiobook. I’m so glad I did because Stephanie captured the energy of the book beautifully!

Publishing & promoting a professional-quality book as an independent author.

Going into the self-publishing process, I had a distinct advantage.

Even though The Remote Work Era is my first book, I’m very experienced when it comes to producing high-quality digital products. In fact, I run a media and technology agency where I lead a team of 20+ contractors to write, design, and build things for my clients, so managing the process of publishing a book was just a new way to apply my experience and leverage the talent in my network.

The Remote Work Era print book in San Francisco

A lot went into getting The Remote Work Era ready for market — much more than just creating the content. The process included:

  • Sourcing and conducting interviews with ~100 remote workers
  • Writing the book
  • Finding beta readers
  • Adjusting & restructuring content based on beta reader feedback
  • Editing & proofreading
  • Front & back cover design
  • Chapter illustrations & other interior graphics
  • Interior page design (my designer made separate design files for the e-book and print versions on KDP, and will create another file for submitting to IngramSpark to meet their specific requirements)
  • Creating a landing page
  • Building a community across Facebook (page & group), Instagram, Twitter, & Medium
  • Devising & executing a marketing strategy (Facebook/IG ads, Mailchimp sequences, etc.)
  • Writing ad copy & email copy
  • Writing & syndicating press releases
  • Recording & editing the audiobook

…and probably so many other things I can’t even remember now.

This was an ENORMOUS endeavor. I hired an editor (my friend Marinda Valenti of Penguin Random House), a graphic designer, a Webflow designer (for my landing page), a sales copywriter, beta readers, an audiobook narrator, and an advertising agency to help. Not every independent author needs to go to these lengths, but if you’re able to, it can make a big difference in how your book is received.

I think the most important components (outside the writing itself) are the editing and design work. My book would have been so different had I not hired an editor (really, Marinda’s work on my manuscript was transformative), and as for design, I think this is what separates “another self-published book” from a professional, high-quality reading experience. I’m proud that the reading experience of The Remote Work Era both on Kindle and in print is equal to if not better than many books from actual publishers, and I have my designer to thank for that!