PUBLISHING a book is like having a baby. On average, the whole process takes about 9 months (longer for some to conceive of book or baby, shorter for others). As was the case with me. A procrastinator, I am not. Once I decide I am going to do something in life, I just do it. And hence, three months ago, when the seed of publishing my own book was planted, I decided to just jump, and worry about the consequences on the way down. No first flush of publishing pregnancy for me, or an enjoyable second trimester, I entered in the third and final stage, when you get all bloated, cranky and tired. But I did it and Destination Desire – the Global Goddess, a single woman’s journey, has been born!
Just like a new mum, the learning curve has been steep, sharp, fast and furious. I spent weeks laying awake every night, contemplating canning the whole project, but equally stubborn in my determination to achieve this personal and professional goal. (And the other day, in a bid to beat the post office queues at Christmas, I’m a little ashamed to say I may have parked in the Parents With Prams space at the shopping centre. Don’t hate me, but I was clutching my books, so I felt like a proud parent).
Here’s what I learned about publishing both an eBook and limited-edition print run.
1. Do you really want this baby? There is no point in publishing a book purely for the sake of publishing. (Although, during those long, dark nights of the soul – and believe me, there were plenty – I repeatedly told myself if nothing else, I was learning how to publish an eBook).
2. Research your options and publishing platforms. I ended up choosing Amazon for its reputation and apparent ease of publishing. I cheated a little when it came to the actual uploading of the zip file. I spent an hour on the phone to my tech guy who waded through a few clunky Amazon instructions to get the book to “press” so to speak. The $200 I spent on this was well worth the exercise. However, there were some glitches with pics, and despite uploading them and having them appear online, they somehow disappeared. Amazon is good at getting back to you to assist with issues, but there is a frustrating time delay due to the fact they are based in the US.
3. Do pay a professional to proof and edit your copy for you. No matter how many times I read my own copy, I could not find obvious mistakes. I chose an excellent Canadian service called Scribendi which offers a swift turnaround of your copy at really reasonable prices. Again, having said this I found a couple of errors in my book. Like any parent, you can beat yourself up over your mistakes, or you can let them go.
4. Pay a professional to design your front and back cover pages (yes, you should have both). I was lucky to hire colleague and friend Brian Thacker – http://www.brianthacker.tv/ who has not only had many of his own tomes in print, but is an accomplished and creative designer. The fact he knows the book business made it so much easier. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it certainly helps!
5. Think about your title. There were many moments when I’d rush down to my office at 3am with what I thought was the perfect name for my baby. Several hours later, in the cold, harsh light of day, I realised the title was absolute rubbish or had already been taken. Pick a succinct and smart title that says it all in a few words. You shouldn’t have to explain yourself to your readers.
6. Think about your back cover. This should be a more lengthy summary of the book itself and perhaps a little about the author to pique the attention of readers. If you’ve won any awards or accolades for your writing, here is the place to put them. You want to establish yourself as a trusted writer.
7. Think about your tag line or “selling point” on your front cover. In my case it was “Sex and the city with an Aussie twist and a global perspective”. Think about a spine for your book (not necessary for an eBook but handy if you are going to print) and a non-priced (for eBook) and priced version of your cover in the event you go to print.
8. Think about going to print. Initially I was going to only do an eBook, but other publishing friends suggested I do a small, limited-edition print run to use as marketing collateral, gifts and prizes. The hard copy books walked out the door in the first 24 hours, proving (to my great relief and happiness) that print is still alive and kicking. I have since urgently ordered more copies.
9. Find a good printer. Ask the market. Again, research is king here as prices and quality vary. If I was to self publish again, and with more time, I’d consider looking at good overseas printers. As much as I love to support Australian businesses, the costs of printing in this country are significant.
10. Remember the little things like copyright on your inside cover, an inside cover page (yes, I initially forgot one of these) and how many pages you want the book to be and whether or not you will use photographs. And do remember to give yourself or others, a photo byline. I used all of my own photographs, taken during my extensive travels, but you’ll never know that, as somehow I was so deep into the words of the book, I forgot to credit myself with a photo byline.
11. Write enough words. Again, for some reason, I had it in my head that a novel was 30,000 words, so when I ended up with 20,000 for my book, I thought that was reasonable. Until a friend pointed out the average book runs at about 70,000 words. I decided due to the nature of my book it didn’t need to be a lengthy tome, so wrote another 10 chapters to bring it to around 30,000. And I added pictures with every chapter page.
12. Write a marketing plan which covers even your wildest dreams. A marketing friend suggested a host of television, radio and print contacts I had never even dreamed of contacting. And work on building your social media networks eg: more facebook, twitter, linkedin followers.
13. Do think of this as a marketing tool and another skill in your social media tool kit. Many eBookers have gone on to become sought-after speakers, columnists and have struck book deals with major publishers.
14. Think about pricing. eBooks start at $0. Value yourself. Most eBooks sell between $2.99 and $9.99. I deliberately chose $4.99 as an average, and to put a value on my words. For the print version, I chose $14.99 (plus postage and handling) which I believed was a fair price for my 100-page book but would also cover my print costs.
15. While waiting for you book to be printed, use this time wisely to refine your marketing plan. If you are sending your book to prospective future publishers, or current editors, make sure you have your contact book up-to-date. Buy enough stationery, stamps and envelopes ready to post. Sounds simple, but when your book comes out, you just want to get it out to people as soon as possible.
16. Think about when you are publishing. In retrospect, I published a bit too close to Christmas when people were starting to wind down and leave on holidays. Also, simple things like queues in the post office to get your book out, are a big deal at peak times. On the other hand, publishing this close to Christmas also gave me an advantage for buyers looking for that last-minute gift or a summer holiday read.
17. Back yourself. Invest in yourself. In the end, I had to steal money out of my mortgage to publish. At one stage, things were that tight I found myself overly excited when I discovered $16 worth of loose change in my car. I may never get back what I spent on publishing in sales, but I will never die wondering, either.
18. Surround yourself by positive people who back your vision. I was lucky to be surrounded by some awesome writers, bloggers and authors who were overwhelmingly supportive when I told them of my plan and encouraged me to keep going.
19. Take a break from your book project every now and again. Towards the end I seriously felt like I was a heavily pregnant woman about to give birth, with all the sleepless nights and heady hormonal swings that come with that. It can and will consume you. Be kind to yourself.
20. Dream. Big. What have you got to lose? And never give up.
Destination Desire – The Global Goddess, a single woman’s journey, is available as an eBook via Amazon and via a limited-edition print run from The Goddess herself at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org