Self publishing my book has been an enlightening experience! These are the lessons I learned.
#1. Start With The Book Proposal
A book proposal is what you need to submit when you are trying to get a publisher to publish your book. When you are self-publishing, you don’t REALLY need the book proposal, but I highly recommend going through the exercise of putting it together for your book anyway.
When I wrote “Don’t Be a B*tch, Be an Alpha” I worked on the book proposal thinking I would be pitching it to several publishers. While I ultimately decided to self-publish, to represent exactly the voice I wanted to share with the world in a non-compromised way, writing the book proposal was such a beneficial exercise for me.
It forced me to really look at myself as an author, the purpose of the book, the reader/audience, the content, and the marketing plan with critical eyes. Before working on the book proposal, I was naïve in thinking that I would write the book, and publish the book: the end. But by working on the book proposal I had to really get clear on what the book is about, who the readers are, why anyone would want to read it, what other books are in the market that cover similar topics, and how as an author I plan to promote the book. It was not fun. (In fact, I almost gave up.) While it was a challenge to look at all these details and realize, “oh crap, I am not really clear on these topics!”, having to get clear and write it professionally and comprehensively helped me later, because I was able to use that information for a press release, a marketing packet for bookstores, a fundraising campaign, and in other aspects of marketing my book--including pitching my book to various podcasts and conferences.
#2. Don't Let Planning Get In The Way Of Writing Your Book
Don’t let planning get in the way of writing your book--write the damn book first! It is easy to get stuck contemplating, organizing, planning, and researching ABOUT publishing your book, while not actually spending the time and attention needed to write the book. I have known people who've been working on the same book for years, some almost 10 years! Also, I am constantly approached by women who say they want to “pick my brain” about self-publishing a book and want to know all the logistics and details--yet when I ask, “Have you started writing the book?” the answer usually is “not yet” or “not enough.” The most important task of self-publishing your book is to write your book. Without your manuscript, it’s premature to spend too much time researching publishing options and other logistics like digital book conversion or audio book recording, etc. These resources and information are readily available for you once you complete your initial manuscript. It’s great to plan ahead and be prepared, but don’t use this as an excuse to distract yourself from actually writing the book.
#3. Hire Professionals
I have been reaching out to multiple independent bookstores all over the country to stock my book, and I’ve learned from them that many people end up with unprofessional self-published books. These are books without professional binding, a professionally designed cover with correct spine, barcode or ISBN, or with typos and grammatical errors in the text. Bookstores have told me that these types of self- published books automatically get rejected from being considered for shelf space. This can be avoided by hiring professionals to help you with your book: professional writers, editors, illustrators, book designers, etc. Sure, your Aunt Sally may be a great editor as an English teacher, but she is not going to be as experienced as professional editors who edit books like yours.
For “Don’t Be a B*tch, Be an Alpha”, I got writing and editing support from Emily, a professional writer and editor with experiences in writing for women’s online magazines on related topics and also owns a professional literary company. Mel, who did my secondary edits, is also a professional writer and editor with many years in publishing and journalism. My illustrator and book designer, Sarah, owns her own design company and has had many experiences working in print media like books and magazines, before mine.
Of course, working with these professionals costs more money than working with “amateurs” or friends or family—or doing it all on your own… but for a good reason. Just because you are self-publishing does not mean the book should be DIY all the way or be created with less experienced talents. The only difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing is just that: who actually publishes the book. Make the investment to hire a professional editor, proofreader, illustrator, and designer. The last thing you want is trying to DIY or save money (aka: avoid investing in your first book) only to create a product that you are not proud of and that bookstores refuse to carry on their shelves.
#4. Your Book Is Your Baby
Your book is still your baby, so don’t check out mentally just because you have hired professionals to do their jobs. While I had a team of professional women committed to helping me with my book, I learned that I still had to be on top of the process. I went through a period of half-heartedly looking at different versions of the manuscript (because let’s face it, I’d written, rewritten, read the manuscript so many times by then, that at that point my eyes were just glazing over the words and lines). I even glazed over email communication back and forth between editors and designers, etc.
Don’t let that happen. Take a few days’ break from looking at your book and then make sure to set aside the time to review your book after it has been professionally edited, proofread, and designed, with a fresh set of your own eyes, as if you’ve never read it before. When I did this, I was shocked to notice a couple of things about the book I had never paid attention to before, particularly regarding the tone and frequency of certain words in my book. These were not grammatical or structural errors, so none of my editors or proofreaders caught it. It was something only I could notice and catch as the original author. I didn’t do this early enough--I did this after sending the file to the printer. When I stopped the press to make these little corrections, it cost me an extra $600--ouch! So don’t make the same mistake, be sure to do this BEFORE you release the print file.
#5. Get Organized
Get organized so you won’t lose your mind (and it’ll prevent costly mistakes). I thought I knew my manuscript inside and out--by heart. But by the time two editors looked at the manuscript and proofread it, and the designer made several edits and versions, it was almost impossible to know which version was for what by memory. While my designer and editor kept things organized, I started getting confused about which file went with what, and what version went with what. In self-publishing, you may have to upload the book in different publishing platforms (Amazon versus Ingram for example), and the specification for each may be slightly different. Make sure to keep track and get organized with Google Doc or Dropbox folders with very clear titles and names. Trust me, eventually a file name like “Cover_V2_Nov19” won’t help you remember what it was for. I should have named it like “Cover_V2_FinalApproved_AmazonUpload_Nov19”, for example.
#6. Marketing Is Your Responsibility
Marketing your book is your responsibility. Nobody else is going to do this for you. Always be ready to sell or talk about your book! Start working on your marketing plan as soon as your manuscript is in other people’s hand for editing, etc. With years of marketing experience in my previous career, and with large social media following, I still found this to be a challenging task. I got help from marketing consultants that specialize in self-published books/authors, as well as tapping into my sisterhood for social media marketing support.
Also, be the walking billboard for your book--now is not the time to be shy. I carry a pretty good sized box filled with signed copies of my book in my car, because just weeks after my book came out I learned a valuable lesson: I was invited to a little happy hour event hosted by a fellow coach friend, and she asked me to bring a few copies of my book. Knowing there will be only about 10 women, and wanting to “not look too eager to sell” I had shown up with just eight books. These women started buying multiples of my books, one for their daughter, or their sister or coworkers, and I quickly sold out of copies, missing out on more sales. I didn’t even have extras in my car! Because I played small and was “embarrassed” about appearing to want to sell my book, I only sold eight books instead of twenty. I am never making that mistake again. I carry my books in my car at all times, and a couple of copies in my purse. One night I was eating dinner at a big farm to table event with a friend, and I ended up selling three books on the spot to women who were sharing our dinner table, because they overheard our conversation and asked about it. I not only happily shared about my book, I said, “I have copies in my car out front if you’d like one!” Sold three. Hell yeah.
#7. Toughen Up
Grow a thick skin—in other words, be prepared to encounter some snobs. While more and more people are self-publishing, there are still those who look at self-published authors as less than professional. Everyone is entitled to their belief and point of view, and they may judge you or your book accordingly, but my advice is to let it go. Don’t take it personally. First, create a book you are super proud of, (see #2 and #3) and then hold on to that emotion and gratitude.
It’s not always easy though. I was at a party the other day, and my friend, the hostess, had graciously and excitedly shared my new book with her guests (I love her!) Then one of the guests started to talk about his friend who, (in his own words) “for REAL published a book through a REAL PUBLISHER.” (Eyeroll). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit miffed, and my feelings hurt, but I was able to just let it slide. Sure it hurts to be dismissed immediately for self-publishing, but maybe he was simply really proud of his friend who published a book the traditional way, or maybe he really has a dream of publishing his own book traditionally some day as well. Who knows, and who cares? It really has nothing to do with me or my book. As self-published authors, we can’t let things like that get to us. Just be prepared for some people to be snobbish, and let it slide. Some people are always going to be snobbish about something--your book may just happen to be one of those things, and that’s okay. They are not your people. There will be many more people out there who will love and support your book.
#8. Be Proud Of Your Work
Most importantly, once you have your book published, be proud of yourself. You wrote a book! And published it! You put it out there! How many people can say that? Out of those who contemplate, dream, and think about writing a book someday, only a fraction really make it happen. Out of those who judge and criticize others for their books, only a fraction are really authors of their own book. You did it. You are an author. You have a book. Make sure you remind yourself what an accomplishment that is and be proud to celebrate your accomplishment.
Meet Seo Kelleher, an intuitive coach for life and business, committed to empowering women. "I am passionate about helping women find the courage to transform their lives by embracing their vulnerability and taking the responsibility."