Today, my guest is the lovely Debra Smouse. I’ve only known Deb for a little while, but she’s fast become one of those people I can go to with writing laments and questions. She’s wise and compassionate, and she has two new books out this week. Read to the bottom of the post for information about how you can win a copy of each!
One of the craziest things I’ve done in recent years is deciding to release two books in the same week. It was also one of the smartest things I’ve done for myself. I’m exhausted. I’m elated.
Publishing a book – whether it’s a novel, a self-help book, or a collection of essays – is like having a baby. During the writing process, you are nurturing this new life, cradling it within you. The comes the act of releasing into the world – the final labor. During that last push, I wondered if I could make it. I cried from the stress as well as the physical discomfort. I cursed my decision to do it to begin with. And now that it’s done, I’ve (mostly) forgotten the pain of labor as I hold my new baby – or in this case two baby books – in my hands.
The business of writing and publishing books is not for the faint of heart; yet, we need the work of all the tenderhearted out in the world. It’s why I wanted to write this guest post for Andilit and share the wisdom and pitfalls I’ve discovered during this process. I want to encourage you to set your sight for the stars and not get discouraged or distracted as you go from draft to publishing.
Last year, I self-published my first book, a collection of blog posts and other essays written over a five-year period in support of my life coaching practice. I was proud of completing the book; I achieved a life-long dream of being a published author. It was also far from perfect. Though I, and others, looked at the manuscript, there were still some errors and typos.
Lessons learned. Lessons to take into the future.
I also took away from the process a sense of pure pleasure in formatting the edited manuscript for publishing. I loved the process so much that I did the formatting for a girlfriend’s collection of holiday essays soon after my book was released.
This last year, I decided to turn two of my digital products into books. Five years ago, I created my first on-line courses under the product mantle of 30 Days to Clarity, most centered around the subject of clutter. The initial concept was to gently walk folks through the process of creating positive change in their lives in small, doable tasks.
The first of these course debuted in 2011. The courses sold well, were positively received, and by 2015, I was ready to retire them as coaching products. I thought that it would be easy to turn an email course I’d sold hundreds of time into a book. I assumed it would be so simple that I might as well do two of my five books-into-courses at the same time.
This was both wise and foolish.
The wisdom came from the fact that the content was already created, which meant I didn’t have to start from scratch. If you are seeking to dip your toes in the self-publishing waters, taking content you’ve already created in a digital format – blog posts, Facebook posts, essays, and digital courses – is a fabulous starting point.
The pitfall of doing this is that the person who originally wrote the content isn’t the exact same person editing the manuscript. Each of us humans grows and changes, sometimes in tiny ways and sometimes in big ways.
Rather than a quick and easy content to final product process, I ended up not just editing but majorly revising some of the content, and of course, I wound up creating some new content as well.
Which leads to another lesson learned during this process: allow at least triple the amount of time you think editing will take.
First, let me share how I approached editing on these two books.
- After compiling all of the emailed lessons into a single document, I sent the entire document to an editor unfamiliar with my work. I chose an editor on Fiverr who was well-reviewed; it was a good choice.
- After receiving the first round of edits back from the editor, I printed the manuscript and began making changes by hand. This is what initially clued me into the fact that I wanted to make heavy revisions to the material.
- I began taking the handwritten edits into the Word copy of the manuscript. I had assumed that I could edit each book within a week’s time and had allowed five days for each book before a scheduled vacation. The first book I chose to edit took eight days to edit; the second book took twelve days to edit.
- As I edited each section of the manuscript, I ran the revised draft through a program called Hemingway. Hemingway has been a great investment for me, personally. It points out all passive voice, excessive use of adjectives, rates the reading level of the work, and highlights sentences that are hard to read. This adds to the editing time, but the end result is worth the time.
- Because I had previously formatted a book for self-publishing and because I have more than twenty-years’ experience with the advanced features of Word, I chose to also format the manuscript at this time.
- After finalizing all of these edits, it was time to order a proof. If you are selling a paper copy of your book, do not skip this step. It is so important for you to be able to see your work in black and white. It’s so important for you to hold it in your hands, gaze upon the cover, and yes, dive into another round of edits.
Time-wise, allow for another two weeks: one week for you to get your proof, another week to read through your work, make changes on the hard copy, and then input those changes into your digital manuscript.
As to the actuality of releasing two books during the same week, again this was both a wise and foolish decision.
On the plus side, you find a rhythm and flow to the work. While you are waiting for one of the books to mature (aka waiting for a proof), you can move to the next project to work on. Also, when you tire of one of the books, you have another book to shift your attention towards.
On the negative side, you will be thrust into a highly intense period of work. When one book is in the proof process, there isn’t any downtime to rest. In the midst of all this intense work, the world doesn’t stop. Dinner still needs to be made, laundry needs to be washed, and you probably can’t abandon your other work. I still had blog posts and newsletters to write for my coaching practice, clients to coach on the phone, and items to edit for Modern Creative Life, where I am Editor in Chief.
Also, if there is one thing I can lovingly suggest: don’t try to diet or stick to a super-structured eating plan during the final stages. Prior to – and even while on – our vacation, I had been eating a mostly gluten-free /dairy-free diet. It was next to impossible to do all the planning required to eat that strictly while also editing a book.
Additionally, be willing to get some outside help.
- Do get some editing help. No matter how wonderful you are as a proofer, you will miss something.
- Because I have years of experience in other kinds of publishing, as I mentioned, I did my own formatting. I actually enjoyed the formatting parts, so it was a pleasurable part of publishing process. But if formatting isn’t your thing, get help.
- As to formatting, I created the printed copy first. The Kindle version was created after I was 100% through the proof stage and had hit “publish”. Again, I did the Kindle format myself. Again, get help if you don’t have the skills to create the Kindle version.
- I designed my own covers with the Cover Creator. Prior to designing the covers, though, I poured through dozens of stock photos and asked some trusted friends for their opinions on cover art. Get opinions from trusted friends and colleagues. Get outside help if you don’t have good design skills.
- I hired someone to write my sales copy. I am not a good marketing writer, and the investment in a book description from Bryan Cohen was worth it!
- Do ask for endorsements. I enlisted the words of trusted friend, securing forewords for each book as well as a “back of the cover blurb” to endorse the book.
You will hit a time-crunch where all you do is think about your book. You’ll wake at 3 AM and sneak into your office to edit a few pages. Do include some down time for yourself. I still attended a family birthday party and continued to attend my book club meetings, and I really needed those breaks. It’s equally important, however, to be aware of the ways you’ll procrastinate, especially if the procrastination is “productive.” In the final week of edits, I decided I couldn’t edit another word until I had cleaned at the shower drain. Our minds are tricky and will choose even the most unpleasant tasks in lieu of editing.
It will be tempting to read all of this and decide not to set a deadline and just see how it goes. You need a deadline, trust me. Parkinson ’s Law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” which I know from experience to be Truth. That said, be willing to slide your deadline a few days in the name of quality.
I hit one of my deadlines, with Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision going on sale on October 16th as I had planned. Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire followed five days later, publishing officially on October 21st.
When it comes to planning your time, don’t forget that you will want to promote your book.
Do create a profile on Amazon’s Author Central. As soon as you find your listing for your book on Amazon, add your book to your profile. If you are selling a Kindle version as well as a paperback version, it’s unlikely that the versions will be linked right away. Don’t hesitate to reach out to customer service: they are friendly and fast.
Do create a Goodreads Author Profile. You will need to add your books to your bibliography as the links are live. Also, this will give you the opportunity to giveaway copies of your books to new audiences.
I had lunch with a girlfriend during the final week of editing. I told her she should write a book based on some recent life experiences. She said: “So, even at this point, you’d say write a book? Because everyone else I know that has written books has said it’s too stressful.”
To which I told her: “Yes. A thousand times, yes. It’s a stressful and painful process, but it’s also an exciting and thrilling process. The rewards are worth the pain.”
The same advice goes to you. Learn from the experiences of others. And please, write your book. We need your work in the world, so please, don’t let the strains of going from idea to draft to publication detract you from sharing your gifts. We need your wisdom.
Now for the giveaway! One person will get the gift of a copy each of Clearing Soul Clutter and Clearing Brain Clutter. To enter, just comment below to tell us what piece of Debra’s story in this post was most helpful to you. The giveaway closes on Friday, October 28th at Midnight, and we’ll choose the winner by random number generator on Saturday. Good luck!!
Debra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. She served for a decade as the Editor in Chief of All Things Girl and is now the Editor in Chief at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I’m also really excited to announce that my story of building my writing business, “From Professor to Portable Toilets to Farm-Life Bliss: My Winding Road to the Life I Dreamed,” is being included in a brand-new anthology. The Winding Road to Freedom: 15 Entrepreneurs Share Their Journey to Financial Freedom is coming soon. You can sign-up to get notified when the book is released, and I hope you will pick it up. It was an adventure to track my own journey, and to remember all the amazing people who helped me on my way.
*This is an affiliate link, which means I get a small commission if you buy the book. Mosey and Meander say thanks for helping buy their dinner.