how I published our book, and ideas for you
|January 21, 2013||Posted by Mama under world view|
After I began writing and self-publishing books, people started asking me how I got started. Through my experiences I have had the pleasure of discovering that other people I know or meet also have some wonderful ideas for books, and they want to know how they can share their stories with the world. Maybe you are one such individual. Perhaps you have an idea for a fantastical story, an encouraging guide to life, or an autobiography about your life experiences. Whatever it is, if this is you, I know what it is like having concepts for a story in your mind and being very excited about sharing them, but you just don’t know how to get them onto the paper, or if you have typed them up or written them down, you feel overwhelmed about all the options for publishing today. I’ve been there.
(note ~ the following illustrations were drawn by Papa, and are a few of those featured in our book, A Year In a Camper)
My journey as an author (boy does it sound odd saying that!) started about six and a half years ago when I began organizing some thoughts on paper that eventually became my first book (which was not A Year In a Camper). As it turned out, writing was the easy part and I had to struggle through the process of publishing. So now when people ask me for ideas and advice, while I am not an expert on the matter by any means and I am actually quite self-conscious about errors I discover in my books post-publishing, I do have some experience that might be useful or encouraging to some of you.
Because I do not know everything there is to know about writing and publishing, not by a long shot, I will simply tell you my story. Hopefully after reading this post you will have some inspiration for how you want to pursue your writing project (which may not necessarily by the same path as mine).
When I first started writing to publish, I had no idea how to write well to convey the message I wanted to share, I was not that great at the particulars of English (I am still a writer-in-the-rough), and I had yet to discover the great wide, scary world of publishing. But I had an idea for a book and I wanted to get it out there, so I started writing anyway, and took each challenge that came along one at a time.
Once I had my rough draft complete, I asked my grandfather (who taught English) to act as my editor so that it would be more polished when I presented my manuscript to a literary agent. A literary agent is the person that acts as your go-between for the publishing house that chooses to print your book. Most big publishing houses will not even consider your manuscript unless you have had it proofed (or read through) by a literary agent. So I read through books full of names of literary agents, and wrote down every name and contact information for those who specialized in my genre. I researched everything I could find on how to write cover letters and what to include in a portfolio for the prospective agent, which included everything from your table of contents to your business plan.
Meanwhile, I sent the finished manuscript to several individuals who I felt would make good critics for the book, and while I was waiting for their reviews to include with my portfolio, I continued researching the two other big options when it comes to publishing hard copy books ~ small publishing houses (which often employ only a few people and work one-on-one with authors) and self-publishing.
Even though I wanted the legitimacy of a big publishing house, with the full-scale marketing they would do to support sales, something about the self-publishing route appealed to me. And then I stumbled across CreateSpace, an Amazon.com company. CreateSpace.com is a self-publishing company that allows authors, musicians, and film makers to create their own work and publish it on Amazon with no money down. Instantly your work can be seen all around the world to Amazon shoppers, and you can use it as a platform for other websites or social media marketing that you want to use for your product. They even have a free program that help you design the cover of your book, and you decide the cover price of the book, which gives you the ability to set your own royalties. With a limited income, concerned that it would take me a long time to find a literary agent and a publishing house (it’s not unusual for it to take a year or more from what I read), and hoping not to have an editor tell me I had to significantly change my content, I decided to work with CreateSpace. Not being as computer savvy as I would like, I was pleased with my experience.
So when I wrote A Year In a Camper, CreateSpace was my first choice for publishing. I simply added another “project” to my account, and began uploading materials as I had them. The review process was completed quickly and I was able to see my manuscript online before I approved it. The only difference with this book is that I wanted to offer it on Kindle as well. I did a little research and was pleased to find that Amazon also owns a company called Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, which helps self-publishers to publish their book as a Kindle version. I simply had to upload my manuscript to their website, along with the finished cover from Amazon, set the price, give them a day to review it, and published as a Kindle version on Amazon it was.
I really like CreateSpace, and if or when I do write another book I fully anticipate publishing through them again. But if you are considering another path, I have three recommendations:
- Google everything. The internet is rich with ideas from authors, readers, and publishing companies on how to get your book to the world in the format that is right for you. Read blog posts, how-to pages on literary agent websites, join message boards for authors. Get as much information as you can so you know what the best choice is for you.
- Go to your library. There are some wonderful books out there on everything from Writing For Dummies, to Publishing for Dummies and everything in between. Not that I’m suggesting you aren’t intelligent, of course, but those are a couple examples of easy-to-understand resources on book publishing. There are also great books that include contact information for classes on book writing, literary agents, and publishing house editors. If you’re library doesn’t carry what you are looking, you are sure to find something helpful through your interstate library loan system.
- Talk to people. Experience is a great tool. Anyone you know that has published a book will have information, resources, and experiences that you can use to factor in your decision about how to approach publishing. Each person’s experience will be different, and each is likely to feel good about a different path, but getting the whys and wherefores will help you to learn more about what to expect and how to make the best of your own experience.
With my books published, I can check the status of sales, royalties, or other information about my books, simply by visiting my online CreateSpace dashboard, a website page just for me that shows my project information. Phone and email support are available if I need help or have questions, and CreateSpace also offers a blog and additional resources to help authors improve their skills. Overall I am very happy with them.
This will also likely turn into a short series. I have ideas I want to share about my experience actually writing my books. I intended to start with that, but as I began writing this post, publishing seemed to become the focus so I went with it. But whether you are thinking about journaling, blog writing, publishing articles, e-books, hard copy books, or something else, I would like to share with you the little things that inspire me to write. Somehow, jotting these ideas down as I think of them has helped me to fine-tune my writing ability, and encouraged me to improve my hobby, and I believe that showing you how I stumbled upon them, and what they are may encourage you on your own writing journey.
If you have any specific questions about the writing or publishing process that you think I might be able to help with, please comment below or email me at email@example.com. If I don’t have the information you need, I may be able to point you in the right direction.