Learning through experience…
Barrie and I first published two books so that we could have-a-go with self-publishing. I remember the feeling of holding our hard work in the form of a paperback book way back in 2014. It felt absolutely amazing. Because writing and publishing your own written work, it-really-is-hard-work! There’s no doubt about this little nugget. But it can be a wonderful feeling to see, hold and feel the result of our own hard work. Our own achievement. It’s all very exciting!
Here, let me try and explain…
Firstly, we generate the idea and concept. And, will others want to read our written work?
What is your genuine mission/agenda behind its proposed outcome… Brainstorming written notes onto a huge sheet of paper with coloured pens can be a good idea for this kind of outcome.
Next, do your research and check your unique niche. It can be a useful process – are you repeating what is already out there, or do you have a quirky uniqueness?
We searched the Internet and tried to look at what everyone else was doing. Not that you should let this deter you. Or that you should copy anyone else’s process. No, you are unique and individual, and no one can write as you do. Once you discover your own unique writing voice and become comfortable within your own ‘skin’, you may find it easier to place your writing into a particular niche, and a place within the publishing industry that shows you are different and worth a read.
This research is to help you get a good realistic balance. If there isn’t the book out there that you would like to read, then maybe the gap in the market is for you?
Next, the writing of your work, many times; and the hiring of a proofreader and/or copy editor – you’ll need to consider the cost and factoring a realistic budget without getting carried away. You actually have no need to hire anyone. If you have people around you whom you can trust, ask them. But one thing you should probably remember is a professional document needs to look, read, and appear professional, without errors. And if you ever hope to see your book(s) on the shelf at Waterstones or WH Smiths, it will need to be polished, perfect, and as presentable as any other sellable item within their shop. (Just one thing about writing your work – always write the first draft as if it were for you personally. Write it like you are completing a gift to yourself. Then, with your rewriting, you’ll need to write it, making the content more objective and interesting for the reader. I soon learned this way of writing was very helpful. It does sell books. If a story makes you cry while writing it, the chances are the reader will cry with you, thus inviting them truly into your imagination.)
Then, find trustworthy beta readers (4 or 5 people whom you hopefully do not know personally, and who will agree to give honest constructive feedback as a reader, returning the work to you at an agreed time. Again, this is a choice thing. But if you can find a few trustworthy people who would be kind enough to do this for a bunch of flowers or box of chocolates, then all good. This is another service you can pay for. It all depends upon your requirements and/or budget.
Next, designing a book cover (either learning to do this yourself or paying someone else. Again, this usually involves a cost, but someone online, sometimes through a self-publishing forum, may be able to help. I have found the people at http://www.lulu.com to be very helpful. It’s about searching around. People can be very kind, even charge a small fee. Some authors would be grateful for you to critique their manuscript and then get your own manuscript internet ready. It also depends upon yours and the other person’s experience in a given area. You will be relying more on trust and friendship rather than a professional service.
Believe me, people do judge a book by its cover! Barrie and I designed and made our own. But I still think we could have done better. There’s always time for us to update or change covers. But any changes would mean further costs of us having to send a further free 6 copies to the British Library at our own cost *but I will mention this shortly*
Rewriting your work again and again, correcting mistakes, editing out blocks of unneeded pieces, and possibly adding more written work and tightening your writing is good. Getting it checked again, sometimes at an extra charge; learning how to typeset and format the interior for a paperback and then the correct format for kindle or ebook, for the internet); and possibly paying someone to change your manuscript into the correct format for your internet publishing. (Again, Barrie and I learned and taught ourselves how to do this. There are instructions on most good websites, like Amazon KDP, Lulu, and many other self-publishing websites.)
Then checking the physical proof to realise there are one or two itsy-bitsy mistakes, this is painstakingly irritable, but patience and wisdom growing all the time. That’s if you haven’t already thrown your laptop through the living room window *joke*. It will mean you’ll need to start over…ugh, and it goes on.
Oh, and there are preliminary registrations of your work… sending a few copies to the British Library at your own cost (everyone has to do this, I think it’s 6 copies of each individual publication), then applying to a reliable distribution company(ies), registering with Nielsens (purchasing ISBN numbers), registering with thr ALCS Authors Licensing and Collection Society…. you have to really have your heart in your project. Well, this is what we learned through our experience. It was a huge learning curve for us, and I will never forget! And this was for just one of our books. But the process does get easier.
Next, of course, is the planned marketing. How on earth are you going to sell it? What if no one buys your books? Could you write articles to support your work and submit them to magazines? And, remember, realistically, this isn’t necessarily going to sell your book! People may like reading your article, and that’s it! Why not get in contact with newspaper journalists? Giving nerve wrecking talks (often for free) to charities and organisations, attending book fairs, setting up your own book signings, chat to many people about your book? On every opportunity!
Once we published Breakfast On The Patio by Sheila Douthwaite, we invited a lady journalist to our cottage for the afternoon. Made her tea/cake and sandwiches too! She kindly wrote a whole page in the Lincolnshire Echo about our journey. We also had around 5/6 articles published in different magazines and local newspapers. We also managed to get a few online private book shops to stock our book. So, it was all very exciting.
The main problem I had, and still do, is my health. I have inflammatory arthritis and crohns disease. Periodically needing immunosuppressive medications makes things difficult too. So, my progress is sometimes very slow. But we are still searching for the right kind of speech to text program that works efficiently. I will always be grateful to Barrie for all his help in making my dreams come true. He is a wonderful help through my limitations. But we make a great team.
Do you see why its a ‘love thing’ 😍. But just don’t go into this blindly, wearing rose-tinted glasses.
There are many other options to publish a book though. Competitions, sponsors, publishers, hybrid publishers, literary agents (if you are fortunate enough). Do your research and find out what is best for you. Some people even purchase a good printer for at home and make a few copies, depending upon how long the manuscript. There are also companies who will do short print runs, print on demand, or even one or two copies. There doesn’t have to be ISBN numbers involved or any other organisations. Steven King made his own newspapers, comics, and booklets when he was a young lad.
Publishing our own first book, Breakfast on the Patio, was a great way to learn the first steps in self-publishing. Proud to say we had full control, did absolutely everything ourselves, and even managed to invite a Lincolnshire journalist for afternoon tea, where she took notes, pictures, and wrote up a whole 1 page article in the Lincolnshire Echo for us.
Joining a writers group and meeting other authors helped improve my reading and writing. This led me to write up diaries of our cottage renovation, Breakfast On The Patio, and then 2 books about psychotherapy, Jaynie and The Client’s Dance. Little did we know that each stage in the process would be a completely new and separate job: A writer, an editor, a hirer of editors/proof readers/beta readers, an administrator, a typesetter, a computer technician, a computer programmer, a proof-reader and re-writer, a cover designer, a distributor, a salesperson, a marketeer, a social media expert, a magazine writer, a speaker, a website builder, and the list goes on. The writing was a mere drop in the ocean followed by a lot of re-writing and effort to get our book known and recognised …to eventually make around 50 pence per year! But as many authors would agree, we don’t write wanting to make lots of money, unless you happen to be famous in the first place. The process of externalising and sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings in a metaphorical maze of whimsical magic and imagination can be life transforming and satisfying to a person. The money is a bonus, at least it is to me. And if writing the words has this kind of cathartic effect upon the author, what could the reader experience as they digest the published version?
For me personally, being on the autistic spectrum, it helped and became my therapy to such an extent that I felt compelled to make the characters from one of my current books, and the characters village too, and their belongings! This is an ongoing project, along with 3 other draft ideas about psychotherapy.