If you’re ever looking for somewhere to stay in San Francisco we know the perfect place! After dipping her toe in the hospitality industry by renting her spare bedroom out through Airbnb, Veronica Tercan discovered a whole new world, full of potential. She now manages several Airbnb rentals, providing a hotel-quality experience for her guests. Luckily for anyone looking to do the same, she’s put everything she’s learned into a brilliant practical guide; The Accidental Airbnb Host. We caught up with her to find out more about her project.
01 What inspired your book?
Like many Airbnb hosts, I started out overnight, just renting out my extra bedroom to travelers or business people. I had no hospitality experience—Airbnb was not very mainstream then. It was only after I started working at Urban Bellhop, an Airbnb management startup, that I started taking hosting and hospitality more seriously.
I started looking for hotel-quality products to use in the rentals I was managing and looking around in what I’d call, the more traditional, vacation rental industry. This led me to businesses that offer hotel-quality products, like The Distinguished Guests, and I started using them in my rentals. Using the website 1chicretreat, I started educating myself about vacation rental interior design and met Mercedes Brennan, a vacation rental interior designer. I started implementing all these great tips in my Airbnb rentals. It was clear that there were many people like me who were becoming Airbnb hosts overnight—almost by accident, hence the title of my book—and I wanted to share all my best tips with them.
02 How did you decide on the format for your book? How did you choose the size, paper type, and cover type?
I wanted to write a practical guide. For me, this meant a book that isn’t too large or heavy. A book you can take with you and put in your bag easily. A 5×8 in. Trade Book with a softcover was the ideal option. Since it’s a text-heavy information book, Economy Black and White paper worked great, allowing me to add a nice profit margin while still offering the book at a competitive price ($14.99 USD.) The book has a vintage look that comes to life beautifully in color. For the color edition I chose Economy Color paper, which is a great option if you have mainly text and just a few illustrations.
03 What book creation tool did you use? What was the design process like?
My book designer used Adobe InDesign to make the book. In the very beginning I tried creating the book interior myself, but I just wasn’t able to make it the way that I had in mind. I knew that a professional interior book designer would be able to do it, and efficiently. I shared the concept of my book with her, sent a few examples and colors I wanted to use and she came back to me with a few design options.
04 What was the most exciting part of the book creation process? What was it like to receive your finished product for the first time?
I absolutely LOVED the beginning phase of it, which was writing the book. Thinking of all the things that I wanted to pass on that would help other Airbnb hosts. After I finished writing, I started looking for a professional copywriter/editor who could review my text. I found one who specialized in travel copywriting, so she knew how to speak to vacation rental owners, and was able to make the text even better.
I also have a few illustrations which were provided by a friend. That eventually became the front cover. And here is the magical part—when I handed it over to my interior book designer, she came up with the idea to add the word “accidental” in orange, and a little bit outside of the title. She tweaked a few things on the book cover and made it even more enticing! So, in short, having a remote team of individuals that helped me make the book better in every way was my favorite part.
05 What were some challenges your particular project had, and how did you work through them?
The first major challenge was figuring out how to put my chapters into a professional-looking book. That’s why I reached out to an interior book designer, which was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made during this process. The other challenge was marketing my book after it was finished, because marketing is actually a full time or at least a part-time job. And if you already have a full-time job, working on a strategic marketing plan can be time-consuming. You also have to educate yourself about it, because with digital and social marketing, there are a ton of new ways to market your book online.
06 Is your project part of your “main” work, or is it a side project? How does it relate to what you do?
The project is not my main work, it was a side project. I’ve always wanted to write a book but had not found the right topic yet. In that sense writing the book was my passion project. The other reason I wrote the book and self-published it myself was that I wanted to learn more about the self-publishing industry. I work in the Customer Support team at Blurb, and having a good understanding of the entire self-publishing process was incredibly helpful in my daily job and allows me to better support self-published authors.
07 Did you have any professional help in creating your book?
Absolutely! And that was one of the best decisions I made. I tried to find people I wanted to work with by looking at their portfolio and previous projects. My interior book designer lives in Australia and I hadn’t even seen or talked to her before! She was recommended to me by another designer that I knew online. We worked on the book together via email and it worked out perfectly. I’m also extremely happy and grateful that I found Jessica Vozel, a travel copywriter, because she really made a difference to the content. You can either look around in your own network or sign up for services like Reedsy to find book-making professionals.
08 What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone creating a book to sell?
One of the most crucial pieces of advice I could give is to not underestimate the importance of marketing. If you don’t know how to market your book yourself, find yourself a book agent or a marketer that can really help you find the right audience and develop marketing strategies to sell your book.
09 What was the writing process like? How did you organize your content? How long did the different stages take?
That was heaven for me because I got to do what I love to do most which is going to a coffee shop and sit in the sun reading, thinking, writing, and drinking coffee! That’s pretty much what the writing process looked like. If you have blank page anxiety and don’t know what to write about, one of the things that really helped me was writing in an online book template. It will give you an idea of what the text will look like on the page and this can motivate and inspire you to continue writing. Another thing I enjoyed doing was thinking of ways to organize the content and making an outline. My book has two sections. The first goes into the basics of setting up your Airbnb rental, such as creating your user profile, creating a listing on Airbnb, vetting potential guests, etc. The second part goes into how to organize each room in your house to create a five star guest experience. It took me about two years from beginning to end. The first year was writing the book, and the second was figuring out how to create a book that I could actually sell. I also had a full-time job, so that did slow down the process a bit.
10 How did you decide on the look of your book?
I love daydreaming and visualizing things so this was a lot of fun too. To begin, I created a concept for my book, inspired by Emily Post’s etiquette books from the 1920s. I wanted to write an Airbnb etiquette guide in Emily Post’s style. That’s why I wanted the book to have a vintage look and started looking for vintage design ideas and colors. If you look inside my book, you’ll find a lot of vintage elements. The blue and orange accent colors are very retro too!
11 What are your sales and distribution goals for the book? How did you decide where to sell it?
I sell my book online and created a landing page for it. It’s available through the Global Retail Network on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online retailers worldwide. This was the best option for worldwide distribution. I have a color edition of the book and that one is available through Blurb. Because color paper costs a bit more, it made sense to sell the color edition through the Blurb Bookstore, as Blurb doesn’t charge a retail fee. Selling my color edition through the Global Retail Network would have made the retail price much higher because of the additional wholesale discount for retailers. One of the things I’m working on right now is a marketing plan for my book. Understanding and leveraging the power of digital marketing is essential nowadays.
Another thing I’m planning on doing is to visit local bookstores and explore selling there too.
I also turned a few checklists in my book to actual printed flyers with Magcloud, which I can either sell or use for promotional material.
Here are some examples:
12 Who is your audience, and how do you reach them?
My audience is new Airbnb hosts who have a second home or a room in their house they want to rent out and are looking for ways to get started and optimize their rental. They can find tips on how to improve their Airbnb listing and how to organize their place to provide a hotel-quality stay for their guests. Digital marketing is an important part of how I reach my audience but I also visit vacation rental Trade shows and team up with people in the vacation rental industry who want to list my book on their website or mention it in their blog articles.
13 Do you have any more projects on the horizon? What’s a dream project you’d like to do one day?
Yes, I do! I recently started my interior design blog at veronicatercan.com where I write about interior design and DIY projects. My dream project is to write a book about interior design and how beautiful spaces can affect people’s happiness.
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