Self-publishing always seems to sound like the easy way to get your book in print but that certainly is not the case and I am just sitting here thinking how it all looks pretty simple when someone announces that they have written a book and you see the finished product, but what you don’t ever get to see is what goes into it all behind the scenes. So here’s a little insight into what I have had to do, research and learn in order to self-publish my book.
The Start of Self-publishing
I started by making notes on what I already knew and what order I wanted to say them in the book. I also made notes on the areas I needed to research further and what I believed would be of interest to parents. My A4 note pad started lovely and neat, all in order, and very quickly transformed into scribbles, mess, pages falling out left, right and centre and full of so much information that it became unclear as to how I was gonna get it all down without sounding like the mess it looked like! Planning and self-publishing are not for the faint-hearted.
The laptop and Google became my best friends – I would literally trawl every site I could to find every bit of information on teething. I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours I have spent doing this – probably best I don’t know!! Through Google, I found a really helpful blog about writing and self-publishing. He was in the US but I decided he seemed nice from what I read so I decided to email him for advice. This was such a great thing to do as he was extremely helpful and positive and he gave me the confidence boost I needed to carry on. If any of you ever decides to write a book I would most definitely recommend speaking to someone who has been there before.
I also contacted a publisher in London just to weigh up my options. He again was very helpful and informative, but the prices were just way out of any budget and although they can do all the covers, the layout inside and get the book into shops as well as doing the marketing, we decided that we could give it a go doing all this ourselves and go down the self-publishing route. Yep, me who is not the best on a computer would now not only have to write a book but also learn to do a layout!
So, after a wee bit of research, we decided to buy InDesign (a graphic design program) to use. I literally sat and just learnt how to do it all by mostly guessing, through searching on Google and by using a hell of a lot of trial and even more error! I will not lie it isn’t the easiest thing to use and there were quite a few times when I simply yelled at the (stupid) computer. Once you get the hang of it you would not believe how you start to adjust, but I am sure someone could make a much easier system – probably a woman – and it would save a lot of time for people. The front cover was in my head already so I just needed a graphic designer to lay it out for me. The back cover I managed to do by myself on InDesign .
I contacted and built up relationships with every company in the book in order to gain the information they wanted in the book, as well as what I wanted, and to also get images to go alongside the text. Several companies needed contracts to confirm I was using their images so there was also a bit of legal stuff to go through. Once I had written their parts I obviously needed to get the approval from these companies too. Some made a few changes, some needed alterations made due to it being medicine and one changed the products I talked about, but all were fantastic to talk to, to get support from and I am so happy I made the decision to contact them all in the end.
I was also very lucky that every company I contacted was thrilled about the book and have offered to help with promotion via their social media sites and websites within the near future.
The quotes from parents are all from people I have messaged, spoken to, emailed or have been passed on to me from friends. These definitely give the book a personal touch. Again, a lot of messaging and time spent on this to get the right quote for the right section.
The images were carefully selected by myself from a website, but the old teething ads I included were a much more difficult find. I had found out about the products, but you cannot use any images from Google due to copyright laws and the only other option was to purchase them. We couldn’t find them all on one site and the Cocaine drops one became the biggest pain in my life! I simply could not track it down. I even emailed the Daily Mail online as they had used one a couple of years ago in an article – I got no response. After emailing several companies, one finally came up with the image in their archives, I was so relieved as it completed the history section nicely.
I knew I wanted to include Jake in a picture as he was the reason for the book in the first place, but I was worried about looking cheesy. Luckily it seemed to fit in pretty well when describing amber anklets and I think it is a nice addition. After all, he was the inspiration!
Self-publishing isn’t Easy
I am not joking when I say that the first finished product is practically a different book from the final copy. I was lucky enough to have a teacher friend who looked over it to correct my grammar and give tips. I then had another friend look over it with a fresh pair of eyes to give honest feedback – she then also helped with the bibliography (I didn’t even think about this!) which again is why self-publishing is not the easy way.
Every time I made changes I would convert the InDesign version into a pdf and each time I would find an image was a bit blurred, or out of line, or not quite in the right place, a word was spelt wrong, a column needed a bit of budging over, the page numbers didn’t look low enough, a purple box wasn’t quite evenly placed and on and on and on. I expect an expert would have put it together in a day or two, but I have spent weeks and weeks getting it to as perfect as I possibly could; I didn’t want it to look amateurish.
The biggest issue at the end was the cover. When it came to the moment we needed to upload it we then realised that it needed to have the front, spine and back cover all as one pdf… arghhhhhh… that was all I could say! After months of hard work, getting the text right for the companies and tweaking the book repeatedly I now found another problem. The person who had originally designed my front cover was snowed under at work and there was no way I could do this myself as I just didn’t have the computer software. I spoke to my cousin who was an absolute star and she agreed to help me in return for chocolates! She had it completed in an hour for me – yep, she’s an expert!
So here I was about to upload it all, I wrote the description, chose the categories, chose the search words, filled out an online tax form and did the pricing – you really do, do it all yourself when it comes to self-publishing. Then I asked for a proof copy and thank goodness I did is all I can say. You think at this point nothing else can go wrong, but nope I was wrong. The images all came out a little too orange, a bit blurred and the cover had patches of pixelation. I spoke to Amazon who said that images can all vary depending on printing. I obviously wasn’t happy with this and asked for the book to be lightened. I waited for another copy to come and two turned up one day. I was holding my breath when I opened them, then gasped when I came face to face with what looked like a slightly car sick baby!! I now had a book that had a front cover too yellowy but the inside was fine. Another few emails later and they were trying to fob me off with it, saying it fell within their range of allowed printing variations. I demanded they got it right this time as I hadn’t gone to this much trouble to have a book a bit ok, I wanted a good quality finish.
Well, third time lucky and they finally got the colours right and I am over the moon with the finished product and extremely proud of it.
That’s Not The End Though
Once published it isn’t the end of it all – I now have to try and sell it. Having no contacts in marketing, PR, social media etc. I am slowly doing my promoting via facebook on my writer page. I have contacted other facebook pages and some are happy to help, others say no due to advertising. I am bugging friends for reviews just so the book becomes known about – I can’t help parents if they don’t know the book exists! My main purpose was to give advice to others, advice I couldn’t find myself when I needed it the most. I am adding adverts where I can and have an article coming out on a local Mum’s page. Slowly getting there, but there is still so much going on behind the scenes that no one sees. After all, I still have my full-time job as a Mum to do too!
If anyone ever thinks about writing and self-publishing a book, all I can say is go for it! If you are willing to spend the time and hard work and have the patience to learn new skills, go ahead and start a new career. I am hoping this is just the start.
You can purchase my book over on Amazon for £10.99 paperback or £4.50 Kindle.
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