“Have you ever thought of writing a book?”
That was the comment I kept hearing from medical and nursing students when sharing my story with them. After several years of hearing this, I decided to listen. I’m glad I did.
In between making the decision to write a book, and seeing it published, it was a good year and a half. Looking back, the actual writing was the easiest part. Join me, as I take you on my journey of writing, Courage Takes Guts: Lessons from a Lost Colon.
Once I made the decision to put “pen to paper,” I was introduced to a woman who agreed to be my “book mentor.” I thought I’d be writing after our first meeting, but that was not the case. A book needs a solid foundation, much the same way a home does. My first assignment was to answer two important questions:
1. Why was I writing the book?
2. Who was my audience?
I also visited libraries, bookstores, and did on-line searches to get an idea of other books already in print on the same topic.
My mentor made it clear her role was not to edit my work. She was there in an advisory capacity but it was up to me to decide on a schedule for myself. How many hours a day would I spend writing? What time of day worked best?
Words became sentences, and there were times I couldn’t type fast enough to finish one sentence and begin another. Chapters built on each other. Memories I thought had been dealt with, surprised me. Tears streamed down my face as I relived what I was writing. There were times I was exhausted, but overall, I experienced a sense of closure.
Step 2: Find a publisher
The next step involved learning how to write a book proposal and researching different publishers. Not every company would accept work from an unknown writer, with no agent, and writing a health memoir who did not have “name recognition.” I sent off proposals but never heard back. Most stated on their website if there was no response within three months, they weren’t interested. I had a lot of “not interested” responses.
I decided to sign-up for a class on self-publishing taught by a woman who is a world-renowned author and expert in the field. After taking her class I realized if I wanted to see my book in print, I would have to be willing to take a chance and join the growing group of self-published authors. My mentor had taken me as far as she could. Now I would be on my own.
Step 3: Fund your book
Books on self-publishing helped, and so did joining an on-line group for writers. What became clear was self-publishing required money. It costs to have your book professionally edited, formatted and uploaded to print on demand sites, such as CreateSpace or IngramSpark. The CrowdFunding Guide for Authors & Writers by Judith Briles was a resource I utilized. Sites such as Kickstarter.com, GoFundMe.com, and others, usually take a percentage of the money raised. I decided to do crowdfunding, but with a twist. I came up with a campaign and sent out emails to family members, friends, and colleagues, bypassing the on-line sites, asking for support and raised the amount I’d set for myself. I’d later find out I needed more!
Step 4: Find an editor
Carefully choosing an editor is crucial. Your work needs to be reviewed for spelling and punctuation, as well as grammar and sentence structure. The cost per hour should be different for both. Make sure you receive and carefully review the contract before signing. Professional editors will require a deposit of half the cost up front and the final portion just before you receive your edited file. Will you need to hire an individual to format your book or can the individual editing your book do that as well? If the latter, ask to see examples of their work. Make sure the cost of formatting your book also includes uploading it to CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) or IngramSpark, print-on-demand sites for self-published authors.
Step 5: Hire a graphic designer
Once the inside of your book is ready to go, choosing a graphic book designer is the next step in the self-publishing process. I used 99designs.com as an alternative to working with a local designer. After selecting your price-range, and describing your book, designers from all over the world send their design ideas to you. I had some laughable cover designs in the beginning. My favorite was an upside-down flower pot with a flower growing up through the hole. The designs did get better and I ultimately chose one that resonated with my “gut!”
Step 6: Roll with the punches
My experience, though, did not proceed quite as I’ve outlined. Red flags began waving once I saw the proof copy of my book. There were noticeable spaces between words, important sections had been left out, and there were “ghost” or “hanging sentences” on some pages. No matter how slowly I read and reread the proof book, I kept finding mistakes. It was then I learned the individual formatting my book did not have the experience or background needed to produce a quality product. My stomach nearly dropped to the floor. What was I going to do? Friends had gifted money for a project they believed in, and what I’d spent their money on, was not something they or I could be proud of.
After talking with someone whose opinion I valued, I knew I had to start over from the beginning. A polite email instructed the person to cease work on my book. I remembered the name of an editor I’d been given, and contacted her. We met and she explained what my book needed and why she wanted to work with me. I swallowed hard when I heard what it would cost, but knew those who had gifted money, the people I hoped to reach with my book, and I, deserved better. I delved into personal savings, leaving a razor thin balance.
It was a stressful three months. I had to go on faith this time would be different. There was still money in my gifted book account. I met with a local, highly recommended, graphic book designer and after getting her opinion on the cover design, and changes she suggested, engaged her services.
Step 7: Upload your book
After the book was uploaded to CreateSpace and I received the proof copy, everything I’d gone through melted away. Holding a beautiful, professionally edited, formatted book, with an eye-catching cover, brought tears to my eyes.
Step 8: Enjoy your success and look forward
If my book had been a baby, it would have been breech! There were detours and potholes along the self-publishing road, and sections of fear I had to navigate, but in the end, those holes in the road produced a better book.
Self-publishing my book has been an eye-opening, learning, and empowering experience, one I wouldn’t change. But I also know I’m a one-book woman! Now comes the marketing challenge!
If you’re looking for more information about writing a book, check out this guide on writing a book while chronically ill by Ricky White!
Lois Fink is an international inspirational speaker and writer who brings a message of courage, strength, and determination in the face of challenges she has conquered. Discussing subjects we normally don’t want to hear about with honesty and laser precision, Lois takes you along for the ride as she talks about her lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease and what she’s learned along the way.