I am looking at a carton of books on my office floor—eight-five copies of Words To Live By—the culmination of six months of effort and the beginning of at least another six months of intense promotion. This slim little volume (only 124 pages) has consumed my thoughts and much of my time since last November when the idea first struck me. Just in case you are a new reader of "The Writing Life," I will explain my motivation for going through every stage of planning, writing, publishing, and promoting this book on my blog. Besides feeling that it was time to write a memoir of my career, I wanted to demonstrate that the six-step process I teach really does work.
So far, I have learned more about the stages of writing a book than I ever imagined possible, despite having written many other books in the past. Here are only a few of the most recent lessons:
- Once I started, I became obsessed with writing. The book became of kind of "presence" that demanded every bit of the time and attention I would give it.
- From the first page, it became obvious I needed an editor; there was no way this book would have been anything by a rambling recollection without the steadying influence of my sister, Judy.
- Actually, I had four editors: Judy for content and style; Bobette for grammar and punctuation; Lois for final, microscopic copy editing; and Terry for one last look.
- There were dozens of decisions to be made along the way. The most important was choosing a professional book designer, Peggy Nehmen, which was a smart and absolutely essential investment. (Having gone through this process I know I will never again attempt to "design" a book on my own.)
- The road to self-publishing can feel like a confusing maze if you don't have a guidebook. I recommend Dan Poynter's The Self Publishing Manual, Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Publisher, and Mark Levine's The Fine Print of Self Publishing.
- Choosing a printer, publisher, or author services company requires research. This is often a case of not knowing what you need to know until after the fact. I had chosen CreateSpace before I heard Mark Levine speak and bought his book. Other than a few glitches, so far I'm happy with the results.
- Deciphering the instructions, links, and costs on a publisher's Web site almost drove me crazy. I registered for LightningSource but couldn't get through their layers of requirements. I finally gave up.
- Self-publishing does not literally mean alone. It takes a team of "professional partners" to accomplish all of the phases of writing and publishing a book. I could never have done this without my fabulous team, which also included talented writers who were willing to read the manuscript and write testimonials.
- What can I say about a printer's proof except read it several times, have it copy edited again, mark it up, make changes, upload a new file, and get another proof until it meets your standards. (Unfortunately, it will never be perfect, no matter how many times you read it .) I went through three or four proofs before I finally hit the button that said "Proof approved. Submit for publishing."