Welcome to the second installment of my self-publishing adventure. Because I ghostwrite books, I’m sharing my process so that potential clients who are interested in this option will know what to expect or anticipate.
If you were my client, I’d take you through the process of defining a mission and a set of goals for your book. I did both before I began writing Live Full Throttle, before I hired Christina Shook to provide photographs, before I left on my motorcycle this summer. The mission changed a bit over time, which is to be expected, but the cliche is true: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
Live Full Throttle: what you can learn about life from women who’ve faced cancer* will encourage readers to embrace their mortality and wring the joy out of their lives. It will give people whose lives have been touched by cancer (or any serious illness) hope that, despite their diagnosis or prognosis, their lives can be joyful and productive.
Short- and long-term goals
Live Full Throttle will be the book that launches my platform as an author who specializes in books that make people think about their lives in new, more optimistic ways. Readers will want to give a copy to those with a life-threatening diagnosis or who are in any kind of life transition.
The photographs will make people buy and hold on to it. The visual nature of the book will introduce a general audience to motorcyclist philanthropy. People who wouldn’t normally pick up a “motorcycling book” will read this one and will remember me as its author.
I must make money on the book itself, and it will give me paid speaking opportunities at motorcycle events, cancer fundraisers, author’s conferences and some places I haven’t yet considered.
It will pave the way for paid sponsorships and opportunities to travel more widely.
It will teach me about self-publishing, which will help me when working with self-publishing clients.
A second book, Lean Into Life: Lessons From the Road is a combination memoir/daily meditations book. It leads with the memoir, based my experience with business/financial/emotional devestation and how long-distance motorcycle travel gave me a rebirth and a new way of looking at life’s hardships. The 365 days of meditations will average 200 words of anecdote and end with a pithy takeaway. The occasional photo might be nice — or maybe 365 photos in watermark behind the words…too early to tell.
Live Full Throttle will connect with a set of VERY loyal audiences, women, motorcyclists, and the cancer community (or should I call it “the chronically ill”?). These audiences will evangelize the second book, Lean Into Life, for me.
Guidance for the book designer
Here’s a recap on why I hired SPARK Publications to design the book. I provided SPARK with my mission and goals as well as this little memo to kick off the creative process.
The book’s voice and the exercises encourage readers to lead a purposeful life that’s full of Spirit.
Here are some covers I like for various reasons:
- Female Nomad I like the top/bottom treatment and the sharp colors
- A Woman Alone A different take on top/bottom and I adore the font
- Paulo Coelho’s biography for the simplicity and the use of black
- Reaching Beyond for the way the title echos the blue sky to white snow/cloud of the photo
- As a Man Thinketh lets the compelling photo dominate and the font works perfectly
Interesting results when you search with the terms “photo essay” on Amazon – I don’t like any of these covers. I don’t want “girlie” and curlicues. I love the combination of black with red & beige. Think of a German Shephard with a red collar.
Whether you are considering publishing a book yourself or selling it to a publisher, you need a mission and goals for the book. If someone else publishes it for you, your wishes for the cover might be considered, but will likely be ignored.
*Subtitle is changed from the original. It now reads “Life Lessons from Friends Who Faced Cancer.”
After writing about how to roll blog posts, newsletters and articles into books, self publishing, writing book proposals and what a book can do for you professionally, I invite you to walk with me down the path of self-publishing a book of my own.
Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer will go to press some time in November and I should have it back by January. Between then and now I’m working with a book design firm, printers, and my marketing intern, Alex Boss.
Live Full Throttle’s back story
In 2010 I learned to ride a motorcycle, then joined a group of women bikers dedicated to raising money and awareness for breast cancer causes. After hearing hundreds of stories about facing the ultimate sink hole—death–from women doing it with grace, humor, moxie and joy, I decided to share what they taught me in this book.
I decided to publish the book myself after walking through the list of questions I would pose to a client trying to make the same decision. Here’s a recap of my thought process.
I saw no reason to wait 12-18 months in light of the people I had waiting to buy it. I’ll be riding with the breast cancer fundraising group again in 2012 and they want to see this book NOW. Not taking into account the time required to get an agent and then a contract with a publisher, which is considerable, publishers have production queues that I have no means to influence.
Greater profits for savvy marketers
Even if a publisher picked up the cost of designing, editing and distributing the book, the hard costs (and hard tasks) of marketing it would be up to me. With the extra margin that publishing gives me, I’ll reap more of the financial rewards from hard-won sales than I would have realized with a publisher in the food chain. In other words, for the same amount of effort on my part I’ll make more money.
As my own publisher I can cut deals to consign the books with shops, vendors and speakers. I can co-brand the book with like-minded organizations and work out creative fundraising opportunities for nonprofits. I even can run a personalized edition for companies that would like to offer it to their stakeholders. Authors with total control over their P&Ls can do this; authors with publishers have to go hat in hand.
Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer is a hybrid of memoir and photo essay. At the end of each chapter I provide exercises designed to help readers apply the life lessons. An experimental format is difficult to sell to publishers, and I knew there was a strong probability that they would change the concept anyway, whether I was on board with their changes or not. Who needs that kind of creative castration? That’s why I’m freelance in the first place!
Publishers want authors with strong “platforms,” which is jargon for how many people already know about you and are waiting with bated breath for your book to roll of the printing press or to finish downloading. An author platform is gauged in a variety of ways, including the number of social media followers and blog and newsletter subscribers, speakers bureau representation, and so on.
For a first-time author planning use a book as a means of building or growing a platform, the whole “come back and see us when you have a big platform” line is like telling a teenager they can’t take the car out at night because they’ve never driven in the dark. In the time it would take me to convince a publisher that I have enough book buyers to warrant publishing it, I can just start selling the book.
Choosing a designer
I believe in putting out a quality product. Research shows that even ebooks with attractive “covers” sell better than those with cheesy ones. I’m not a designer and don’t aspire to be. Yes, ebooks can be formatted in Word and converted, but my book is full of beautiful photos by Christina Shook and needed real design expertise. I wasn’t about to skimp on design.
I also believe in the power of tribe. It’s always nice keeping dollars in your own community but that’s not the only reason why I chose Spark Publications, headquartered here in Charlotte, NC, to design my book. I wanted to work with a design firm that KNOWS BOOK PUBLISHING, and Spark has designed a raft of successful book projects. The president of the firm, Fabi Preslar, knows how difficult it is to be a self-published author, since she wrote a book of her own this year. Finally, Fabi is well regarded in business and professional circles in this region, meaning she has a great platform for promoting her clients’ projects; I wanted to benefit from her network and pro-client passion.
Choosing a cover
Spark began the project by suggesting different cover ideas. Scroll through to see the first round.
Next, I put the question out to friends and social media followers. On their feedback, I went back to Spark for iterations on the first layout. Here’s what I got.
And finally, here’s where we landed. I adore it.
Next up: Mission, Goals and Cover Guidance.