With a firm decision to self-publish, I wanted to start building momentum – both with an audience and within myself. I started posting individual pieces on my blog in September 2018. I included backstory to each piece – which was to be an unusual feature of the book.
I also found a few people to read the draft copy and give feedback, before finally stopping for the year.
I was to resume early in 2019, with the goal of wrapping everything up within months, and having the book out by the end of the year. But, of course, things rarely go according to plan. Life took over, and although the year started far more positively than others, I just didn’t get round to resuming the work.
Ramadaan (which fell in May this year) brought about a new impetus, and I set a goal of having a sample print copy done by the end of the month. It was a challenging target, but with the added productivity I was experiencing that month (I had other projects on the go, too), I gave it a shot.
A few days after Ramadaan, the document was ready and I sent it off to a printer, who did an amazing job of getting the book to me within days.
And so, in June 2019, I finally held a printed copy of my book. It was a proud day – seeing three years of (sporadic) work manifested in one physical item that could easily fit in on personal bookshelves, at libraries, and in stores.
Of course, this was just a sample copy, and I found numerous flaws which would need ironing out. But, given that I had zero experience in book printing, I felt it was a fairly good result.
I prepared a sample PDF (available here), announced my news, then set out on what I thought would be the final few steps in getting this out to a wider stage.
Given the budget limitations (no getting away from that), I would only be able to produce a print run in late November – which would give me plenty of time to root out all the issues.
A personal boost
The printed copy also led to a pretty big confidence boost in that I let my parents read the book. I’d never shared this kind of writing with them before, and even though they’ve known about my blog for years, I didn’t think they’d ever read it. So I suspected this book was a total surprise to them.
In all my years of writing, I’ve rarely shared my work with people I know in person. My audience has always been mostly strangers and online acquaintances – so it was a big step for me to share this with my parents, of all people. And it felt good to receive positive feedback and encouragement from them.
Shout it out
The book production process itself is demanding enough, but once you produce something, you actually need to sell it. And for introverts, like myself, the idea of marketing your work is daunting.
I always knew I would never hold a physical book launch, and likely wouldn’t do any in-person events at all. My marketing would need to be through every other means, and at this point, I realised that if I was to launch this book by year-end, I needed to get moving.
This is where the Internet – and podcasts, in particular – became my best friend. I took in a ton of advice from all kinds of ‘successful’ self-published authors, and immersed myself into the mindset of all the stuff I would need to do in terms of building an audience, getting my name out there, and other sales tactics.
In particular, the following resources (mostly podcasts) were most useful:
It was a lot to take in, and there was no way I’d follow everything (or even most). My approach was to take what I felt comfortable with, and do the best I could with it.
Bookstores and publishers
With a print book looking like a reality, I approached a few independent bookstores that I hoped would stock the book. I also looked into online stores that would sell it – trying to find as many avenues as possible to get the book out there.
It was at that time that I decided to approach a small independent publisher that had previously assessed the book a few years earlier. They agreed to take it on, and it felt like this was all coming together beautifully. Their publishing model was one where I would retain my full rights, and almost all the profits – but I would pay them upfront for the services they rendered to take the project to a perfect, mass-produced print-ready book.
The company had a local reputation, and I trusted that having its name behind the book would boost the distribution, while also helping me to reach a wider audience.
They sent through the standard publishing contract they used. I I took legal advice on it – resulting in a lot of adjustments that would protect me far better than initially. I sent the feedback through to them, and was confident that there wouldn’t be many issues with that, and that the final stretch was on the horizon.
But, like so many things in life, things don’t always go according to plan, as you’ll find out in the next edition…
Other parts in this series: