There once was a time when books were created by publishers in far-off lands with pristine printing presses and hidden formatting magic. Well alas, modern-day writers now have the power to grasp life by its binding and self-produce whatever they desire. So long as they have the right tools.
How To Write Your Book:
As for me, I began writing a collection of poems roughly 6 years ago: in my dorm room, curled up in my bed at home, and on drunken nights with my phone held against my wet eyelashes. These poems were written over the course of 4 years, on and off, and on and off again. To be honest, I don’t know what my intentions were when I began documenting. I’d like to think I was simply healing my wounds and releasing that pain into a safe place.
Normally, I’ll write when the words seem to flow out of my brain like tentacles of a sea creature. Effortlessly. My best piece of advice to you is to not force it. Have your computer, your notes app, a piece of paper and pencil handy for whenever you strike inspiration. And most importantly, back. up. your. hard. drive. Sync with iCloud, Dropbox, Google Docs, an external hard drive… anything! The most devastating thing for a writer is to lose all that raw emotion in an instant.
How To Edit Your Book:
Once you have a draft of your manuscript, print it out. Staring at thousands of tiny words on a computer can be extremely straining on your eyes. Plus, if you require reordering or editing, having a physical paper copy allows you to view the words from a different perspective. I printed each poem out on its own sheet (waste of paper, I know… but you can always use scratch paper AND continue to use this copy for editing) and laid them out on my bedroom floor. Next, I gave each sheet my undivided attention and began mixing and matching according to the story arch I had set out.
Editing the words that you’ve written and read and re-read yourself can be difficult. After all, if your brain recognizes the text you’re more likely to skip over blatant grammatical issues. I edited each of my poems myself, but you can always send your manuscript over to a friend you trust and have her/him look it over. It never hurts to get a second opinion. Unless you just love that top and already know you’ll be sporting it this weekend.
Bonus: Adding illustrations to a poetry book is fairly common. For that reason, I knew I wanted drawings of several dead or dying flowers dispersed throughout my book. However, this prolonged the rate at which I would be finished with the product because of the detailed images I was sketching. If you’re tight on time, I would recommend asking a friend or artist to help you create graphics (or sketches converted into high dpi vector format in Photoshop or Illustrator). I’m extremely proud of the drawings I created, but I did ask for help on formatting at the very end (something I’m so thankful for).
How To Self-Publish Your Book:
I did research on self-publishing sites after I created my manuscript, so I really had no idea what to expect. I ended up deciding on using Blurb as my publishing platform. I then began the long and tedious process of converting my word document into an RTF (rich text file) and then individually placing my graphics onto their software program BookWright. To be honest, I did find myself on their FAQ page frequently and growing impatient with the poor user experience of BookWright. Again, if you’re not tech-savvy or have little patience for technicalities, I would say ask a friend to help with this step.
Once you’ve completed formatting, you’ll have to check and re-check how each page looks in relation to the rest of the book. Here are a couple of questions to ask:
- Are my graphics high enough quality?
- Are there any typos? (yes, I know you checked before but check AGAIN. Please.)
- Is there any text that’s too big or too small?
- How is my alignment? Are there any lines that break in odd places? Are all left, center, and right aligned text the same? Do any images run off the page?
- Do all the page counts match up to my table of contents?
- Do I need to add blank pages to break up text?
As a perfectionist, I have a tendency to nitpick at things until I’m 100% satisfied. But we all know that rarely ever happens. I learned in graduate school that one of the most important traits a successful entrepreneur (or anyone for that matter) must develop is “shipping it out”. Being okay with imperfection, for now. Because the only person holding you back in this process of self-publishing a book is yourself. Nobody else.
After all these questions have been answered, you can now export your book! Remember: Be sure to order yourself one copy, as a test, before you continue setting your book up for sale.
How To Promote And Sell Your Book:
Once you’ve completed these steps, HOORAY you’re almost there! (Did you order and proofread your first copy? If yes, then proceed.)
A word of caution: Blurb’s base price for books is pretty steep so don’t expect to make that much profit. I believe my softcover 64 page book begins at $13.50, so I added $2 profit per book. Each book will rank differently based on the type of paper you use, color, and the number of pages. Also, the Blurb storefront is your best bet for selling your book directly. I had the option of selling on Amazon, but that honestly seemed too difficult and take too much time. So I didn’t.
As a marketer, I believe it’s my duty to come up with a promotional strategy and create materials to set my book up for success. First, I set a date: February 7th. Hoping there would be enough time for people to order and receive their books by Valentine’s Day. I was a couple of days off (the earlier the better). Then, I created promotional graphics and scheduled them out over the course of a week. This was working in conjunction with the poetry I had already been posting on my Instagram account. Next, I created my Instagram captions with tags and prepared for the launch day. On the day of the launch, I utilized social media to post photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with captions, reached out to friends and family notifying them of the launch and to help with promotions and even extended my reach to social media influencers.
You’ve done it. You published your book! Congratulations! But don’t be discouraged if it’s not getting as much traction as you anticipated. People are sometimes wary of making online purchases for a myriad of reasons. Promote your book with the purest of intentions and give them time to make their decision. For now, sit back, relax, and bask in your accomplishment.
Thank you so much for reading. If you’ve ever self-published a book or are looking to self-publish, please drop me a comment. I’d love to hear more.