Not in a million years did I think I would write a book, let alone self publish one.
On my first day back at work after maternity leave I bumped in to an old colleague Nico. He told me that his girlfriend is expecting their first baby and wondered why no-one had written a ‘baby bible’ in all the years of human breeding!
After a pregnant pause, I decided not to tell him I just had. As Craig David would say, lets re-re-wind!
During my year off work to bring up Boo, I set myself the sole goal of surviving parenthood. I didn’t think I would ‘flourish’, I feared PND and above all I had no clue what to do with an actual baby! Then my friend Aidan rescued me in the best way possible – appealing to my ego “you’re so funny, other Mums need to hear your voice” and with that, our blog, Milk Drunk Diary was born.
How it all started
What started out as a cathartic outlet to keep the brain ticking, soon started to pick up momentum. People were reading my words, responding to my comments, hearting my tweets. A friend introduced me to the Huffington Post Parents, and soon after I became a regular contributor to their blog.
It took a good nine months or so for us to realise we had tapped in to something. I had always wanted to write a book – I just didn’t know what about. My friends still laugh because I was the girl who never wanted children. And yet.
So, I got to work. I knew what to write – all the parent-hacks, the inside information, the good stuff people keep to themselves that needed to be shared. I scribbled my notes along the way, which was a great reference. In those first six months of being a new Mother, no-one showed me how to change a nappy, no-one had forewarned me about ‘Mumsomnia’ and I had no clue about ‘milk drunk’. It was time to tell the world.
The book was written over a number of months, going back through notes, tweets and diaries. That was the easy bit.
The decision to self-publish
Indeed, we decided to self-publish. It isn’t an easy decision, but it is definitely the right one. If you have an ounce of talent, if you’re tech-savvy, if you have good contacts, if you believe, and if you’re willing to work hard – you can do it!
And I’m proud to say that my book The First-Time Parent: Six Months on the Outside, has finally been published. It has been a labour of love, hard work and a real sense of achievement.
There are some very useful blogs out there offering guidance, and while I don’t profess to be an expert, there’s some extremely useful tips I picked up along the way. So, if like me you’re a Mumpreneur or Dadpreneur in hope of being the next JK Rowling, then take a look at my top tips that you need to know about self-publishing…
1. Start with passion
Everyone has a book inside them, so why is it that only a few of us actually see their words in ink? It’s not that we’re better writers, or lucky, or were miraculously discovered like Justin Bieber. It’s that we dared to dream and were motivated enough to do it. Passion and drive are the single biggest factors in making your book a success. It takes time and effort and belief. If you have these, you’re starting in the right place.
2. To self-publish or to not, that is the question
Going down the traditional route of publishing requires an agent. You will have to prepare yourself for knockbacks and if you do succeed, you’re potentially writing to someone else’s agenda. And then there’s the issue of royalties. But there’s many benefits of going down this road. Your book will be professionally proofed, produced, marketed and distributed. With the backing of a well-known publishing house doors are already opened.
But I decided to self-publish two versions. The first is a e-book for iTunes, the other version is paperback, via online stores. The paperbook version is published using Blurb. You download their very simple ‘bookwright’ tool, chose your layout and get to work! It’s surprisingly easy, but if you’re not a publisher, you will have to learn about layouts and text fonts pretty quickly. Not forgetting of course that fonts come at a price, unless you use free ones, I found some great options at https://www.fontsquirrel.com/
Blurb allows you to print on demand, which means you can list your book with key publishers like Amazon and Wordery, but the book is only printed when ordered. There’s a real bonus in this, because you aren’t hoarding or posting out books. However, the downside is that the margins suck, especially in colour hardback books.
Downloading the iTunes publishing tool allows you to create the ebook version for immediate upload to iBooks. It took a few goes to figure out and a couple of registrations, but once up and running is very easy to sell. Additionally, iTunes provide free banners to download and all kind of promotional tools for selling – they make it very easy for you. As I understand it, they take 30% profits, you get to keep the remaining 70%.
I did consider Amazon’s ‘Createspace’ tool which is very simple to use – but it wasn’t as suitable for colour/photo books, and probably a better option for text heavy titles.
3. Getting to work
Only you will know how long your book takes to write. Mine was non-fiction, and so required less creative strategic planning, and more logical thinking. What I learnt is that you don’t have to block out months of your life and live in a hole. I wrote my book after work, during commutes, and sometimes even in the bath! But do have a clear plan of how you see the book evolving, the chapters and sections the content will work in, and a rough deadline to work towards – it can be a great motivation.
Do get a proofreader. Even if you’re a professional writer, a proofreader is worth every single penny, and actually not too many pennies either. We found ours in the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It wasn’t until he returned the book to me that I realised it has been transformed into a final piece of work.
Should you intend to sell a book through major booksellers, you’ll need an ISBN (international standard book number) and the best place to get one in the UK is through Nielsen.
Nielsen provide a one-stop service and are the leading provider of data services for booksellers, libraries and publishers. They have also just launched a new store making it even easier to purchase an ISBN. It offers ISBN options suited to your titles, a digital marketing tool allowing you to seamlessly promote your book to a whole new audience, and ‘enhanced services’ which allows you to embellish the details of your book, which further help the readers find and buy the book. The new service is up and running at Nielsen.
While Amazon and Blurb both offer a free ISBN service for self-publishing, they do come with limitations such as exclusively printing through them. This isn’t ideal if you want freedom over your product. Since I wanted to be listed as the publisher I went with Nielsen, it lets me use the same ISBN if we decide to print elsewhere in the future. It’s a freedom worth paying for and prices start from £75 for one ISBN. Remember you will need an ISBN for each version of your book (eg, hardback, paperback), except a Kindle.
This was our greatest struggle. We are word people, not picture people but the book needed to be brought to life. We thought about commissioning someone on Fivvr, but I wasn’t sure about using someone I hadn’t met, and I came across a great stock library at Adobe, which I considered for a while – the prices are very reasonable, and the quality is impressive.
However, in the end, I came across an illustrator through a friend, who gave me a very good deal. Up and coming illustrator Clara Spinassi provided original artwork for the book, and as I hope you will agree – did an amazing job!
7. Pricing It
Sure, it’s hard to know where to price your book, so the best thing to do is look at your competition and see where you fit. After all the costs and production, you may be lucky to see a quarter of the profit come to you, but think big!
8. Call in your contacts
Call in your friends to tweet, facebook and share the shit out of your book! Word of mouth is crucial. If you have influential contacts, ask them to read your book and provide a review. We were extremely grateful that the managing editor Babycentre and journalist/blogger Lucy Tobin took the time out of their busy schedules to do this for us. Their endorsement was reassuring and much appreciated.
9. Market the *** out of it!
Marketing your book is every bit as important as writing it. Competition is fierce, the market is crowded, so you need to do everything you can to stand out. We hired a PR to write a press release and mail it with proof copies to key media. We also bust a gut sharing our story across our many followers on social media and the blog. We also set aside some money for online advertising and promotional activity. The great thing with the online world is that there’s always something that can be done on a small budget.
10. And Finally
Advice shared, but I have not yet taken is that start writing a follow up once you’ve written your book. If only I had the energy!
Did you find this helpful, we’d love to know?
Milk Drunk Diary is an editorial blogzine based in the UK. We buy, borrow and receive products to test and review. Our opinions are always honest and our own.
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