My book & matching bullet journal (and my cat Noedel)

Last week, the moment was there.

I had seen it coming for a while, yet it suddenly felt like failure. I received the following question in my inbox no less than 3 times:

“I can’t find your book, is it still available somewhere?”

The moment had arrived. My book, Handlettering & Illustration in your Bullet Journal, was sold out. It’s time to say it out loud: there will be no second print.

Exactly 2 years ago, in September 2018, my great pride appeared. My. Own. Book. In all the pink-glittering friendship books that I got to hold in my life, I always answered – with a evenly-pink-and-glittering gel pen – “writer” under the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. The current book admittedly had a different form than I imagined at the time (it wasn’t a novel about cool 17-year-old girls who had cool names like “Nicky” and “Jazmin”), but it was a book. A book!

First copy? Second edition!

A book about bullet journaling (how I rolled into that is a nice story for another blog, by the way). Bullet Journaling is a kind of calendar system invented by Ryder Carroll. In my book I told you how to adjust it completely to your own taste. Accompanied by a matching Gouden Lijntjes Bullet Journal. The book release was very promising: while my publisher pressed the first copy into my hands, she was even speaking of a possible second print coming up. I felt giggly down to my toes.

However, that second print was not published for a while. And for another while. After a first peak, sales of the book were slow. When, reluctantly, I asked my publisher about the second print a year later, an answer came which I had already expected. The copies of the first print remained the only copies. Sold out would be sold out.

Signeren tijdens mijn boekuitreiking (foto: Evelien Hogers)

But why?

Neither the publisher nor I really understood why. We were (are!) very happy with the content. It has become a colorful book, chock full of great tips and beautiful photos. For weeks I have been researching and refining to make all information as complete as possible. Bullet journaling spreads from start to finish. About 95% of reviews that appeared were very positive (a few would have liked to see more lettering examples, for examples). I often received personal messages via Instagram from people who were so very happy with it. A German publisher was even interested in the translation. And yet there was apparently something about the book that just didn’t make people snatch it off a book shelf.

The next opportunity is just around the corner. Right?

To be honest, I wasn’t worried for a long time about the second print not coming. In fact, I thought I’d be able to announce another book by the time it became noticeable. In the sense of: “Doesn’t matter that this is sold out: I already have new, better version coming up! Look at me having outgrown the previous book!”. Moving on. I had already learned so much, so many great new ideas. And besides: still SO much time.

The latter is why the announcement “your book is finished” felt like “your time is up.” And you didn’t do sh * t. No new manuscript, no new publisher deal. Not even a bundle of Sunday poems. It felt like failure.

Speech by my publisher (picture: Evelien Hogers)
Still in love with the pretty pictures from my book (picture: Sterstijl fotografie)

What I would do differently now

But that is not the case. In fact, I can now analyze and understand the “flopping” of this book (which still feels like too harsh a term). And that’s only possible because I’ve grown tremendously since it hit the shelves. As a creative and entrepreneur. I would do so much different now. The first meeting with the publisher was 3 years ago, the manuscript was there 2.5 years ago. In the meantime I have started an entire company, taught at least 100 workshops, had great collaborations, and gathered a great online community around me. A small selection of my most important learning points:

– Make the subject more specific. During my workshops I notice the following: participants are overwhelmed by too much information. It comes from a good place (namely wanting to offer a lot, a LOT of value), but it can be too much to take in. I suspect that people therefore did not find the book handy, and do not know what to do with it. Unless they were already familiar with the topic and were specifically looking for more information.

– Turn on the spotlight. Surprise, surprise: for ME the world revolved around my book for a while, but the rest of the world didn’t just… know about it. My publisher and I have, of course, spread the word. But I now know that a lot more can happen. That people often do not find it annoying if you regularly talk about a product that you are proud of, they actually like it! So: extra attention with beautiful promo photos, sneak previews, small tutorials, sharing reviews … the work. (I could make a whole course on this alone, haha).

– Collect more reviews. Speaking of reviews … Not from colleagues, bloggers or magazines: from “ordinary” people who used the book. Over the years I have noticed how much we enjoy reading what others think of something before we start on it ourselves. Which makes perfect sensel! So you see: with one review on Amazon, for example, you make an entrepreneur very happy. You can really make a difference.

– Don’t sit on it for too long. In the past 2 years, 100 ideas for new books have already crossed my mind. Guess how many manuscripts are already out there? Exactly, zero. Never good enough, no time… There is always an excuse. And in the meantime I would have been able to try out 20 things. It’s time to just make some decisions.

– Trying = always winning. I have written a book. It didn’t go exactly the way I wanted. I learned from it. That is not failure, that is a huge win. Like J.K. Rowling said in a great speech:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously,
that you might not have lived at all.
In which case you fail by default.”

During the release (picture: Evelien Hogers)
<3 (picture: Evelien Hogers)

All in all, I don’t feel like I’ve failed. I am very proud of the book, both how it turned out and the fact that I published a book at all. Moreover, it is really cool to notice how much you have grown through these kinds of points in your life. So… on to that next book!

What would you like my next book to be about? Let me know in the comments!

PS. Still wanna buy the book? My book is still available second-hand through bol.com. I still have a small number of copies myself, but I find it difficult to part with them. Maybe someday I will sell them at a fair. And otherwise… you can always send an email to the publisher: Forte Creatief. Who knows!

PPS. Also, I had to add this adorable photo of my grandparents at the book presentation. Glad they could both still be there back then :)