14 Jun 7 Things I Learned While Writing and Self-Publishing a Book
Hello Ladies! I hope your summer is in full swing and that you’re reading this while slathered in sunscreen, watching your kids splash water everywhere. I absolutely love summer. As a person who’s always ready for a break in humdrum routine, summer feels gloriously languid and free. The only problem is that I want to toss all discipline out the window, drink wine every night, sleep late, wear the same shirt for three days (Ok, that happens in all seasons), and totally shirk all my adult responsibilities (I’m looking at you, giant pile of unopened mail).
A few weeks ago, I shared my book with you. Flourish was a gift from the Lord, a project I never would have had the courage to complete without his guidance and grace. It’s fun, because once you finish a book, other people start sharing their writing dreams with you, and you realize that you actually have a little something to offer them. Did you know that 81% of Americans feel they have a book in them? That’s right, 81% of us want to write a book. Very few, however, fulfill that dream. I’m here to encourage you to create, to share what the Lord has given you, and to be bold and unafraid of the outcome. The Lord was very clear with me about writing my book—I was to be obedient in writing and he would worry about the outcome. I wrote Flourish as an act of obedience (I also enjoyed it immensely), and if no one but my dear grandmother reads it, that’s OK with me.
Here are few things I learned along the way:
1.) Think long and hard about your target audience.
Who needs to read this book? Why do they need to read it? What do you hope they will do with the information they learn? How can you make your book as attractive as possible to your target audience? My mom always says, think about the “WAM,” or “what about me?” Readers and audience members are always thinking, “What about me? How does this apply to my life? What can I do with this information and how is it useful to me?”
2.) What is the One thing (or bundle of ideas) you want people to know?
Once you’ve had a chance to identify your target audience, ask yourself, “What do I want my target audience to know or implement once they’re finished reading this book?” For me, the big takeaway was get in the Word of God!! If women do nothing else but read their Bibles more after they’ve read my book, I have succeeded.
3.) Use first readers
I had four dear friends and mentors who were my “first readers.” They edited the very first version of the manuscript (if you could even call it that) and really helped me with my overall organization, focus, clarity, and consistency. I thought they might each have the same edits, but it was so interesting and divinely appointed because they each had completely different yet totally valuable things to say. I ended up incorporating almost all of each of their edits.
When enlisting your first readers, give them a specific timeframe in which you need them to finish the manuscript (a deadline), thank them profusely, and then give them a nice gift certificate, or take them out to dinner, etc., once they’re done with the manuscript. My first readers also helped me with the cover design and the back of the book summary, and they were my biggest champions along the way. Pick people who are good writers and communicators, theologically grounded, available, and a few readers who know you well and a few who don’t know you well.
4.) Know your writing style
Do you need to have it all laid out first? Or is it better for you to get all the content out and organize it later? (I’m this type of writer.) When are your best working hours? What are your biggest obstacles to writing? How can you get more time to write? Set a timeline for finishing the manuscript but be flexible, my book took thrice as long as I thought it would.
5.) Consider using a freelance editor
WestBow press editing was good, but very expensive because it was based on the word count of the book instead of the time it took the editor, so I could be an amazing writer with very few edits or a terrible writer with a gazillion edits and the cost might be the same.
After realizing that WestBow’s price model was different than most freelance editors (who are likely less expensive), I reached out to an author friend for recommendations. My friend recommended Kathy Ide and I would have loved to work with her but she was booked several months out. For a variety of reasons, I needed to finish the project before she was available, so we didn’t have the opportunity to work together.
If you decide you want to use freelance editing services, talk to them at the beginning of your writing process. One thing I like about Kathy Ide is that she will work with you one chapter at a time. This can help you see the recurring errors you make before the manuscript is finished, which will cut down on your editing costs and time (and frustration).
6.) Stories are powerful.
Whatever your genre, stories are a powerful literary tool. Use poignant stories as often as you can because they draw the reader in, but also make sure your point is clear and not lost in the narrative. Think of a good story like an anchor for whatever concept you’re trying to get across. If you’re writing about time management, readers will remember your story about fixing your own schedule long after they will remember abstract tips in a list.
7.) Do Your Research on Self-Publishing
I self-published Flourish using WestBow Press, the self-publishing division of Thomas Nelson. Overall, I had a mostly satisfactory experience, but I will say it’s definitely important to know your book budget ahead of time and to be able to stay firm on your budget when confronted with opportunities to pay for additional services. If you’re considering WestBow Press, I would be happy to share more about my experience with them. You can get in touch with me here.
I also came across TLC Graphics last summer. I have not worked with this company but they were part of the team of publishers who met with She Speaks attendees last year (so they have at least been vetted by Proverbs 31 Ministries). This articlecontains really good questions to ask yourself and any prospective publishers you’re interviewing before getting started.
May the Lord bless you in all your creative endeavors and may your summer be blissfully peaceful, or if all your kids are home every day, raucously joyful!