I’ve finished the Short Guide to Self-Publishing that I first drafted ten years ago!
The guide covers self-publishing a book without using a company or middleman to manage the process. You might choose to outsource a task to an expert (a copy editor or a cover designer, for example), and you’ll pay a printer to print and bind your books, but no one will be taking a cut of your sales.
Self-publishing this way is a lot of work, so I want interested parties to have an idea of what they’re be getting into, should they pursue it. I hope that the guide will help people who decide to do move forward with self-publishing avoid the mistakes I made.
I had a story idea this weekend, and I knew that if I waited until November, it might be gone. But without NaNoWriMo, I wondered, how would I stay on track?
I love the camaraderie of NaNoWriMo, but I realized that what keeps me going is the bar chart. So I made myself a chart to use. If you want to write 50,000 in 30 days (any 30 days you choose!) and a chart would help, download it here. (On my computer, when I click on the link, the file automatically downloads.)
Last week I attended the AWP (American Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Washington, DC. It was my first time at AWP, which was an overwhelming affair: six sessions each day with up to 35 choices, a monstrous book fair, evening meetups, and events throughout the city.
Inside the DC convention center
The first day, I attended all six sessions, each of which included a panel of four or five experts. The morning sessions were filled with practical information about how to land an agent, what it is like to have a book deal, what residencies are looking for in a writer, and how to give and receive feedback effectively. The afternoon sessions were less helpful: the panelists read essays they’d written on the subject, told personal stories, or read excerpts from their own books as examples. This was less interesting to me, or maybe I was just exhausted from the day’s nonstop activity.
While I gathered lots of information, I didn’t speak to a single person all day. The conference format, with only 15 minutes between sessions, made it hard. After each session, people would line up to speak to the panelists, who often included published authors, agents, editors at presses, and bookstore owners. While I would have welcomed an interaction, I didn’t have anything to pitch or a clear goal, so I didn’t join these lines. Late in the day, when I stepped into the book fair, I began to suspect that this was where the networking happened.
The view at the quiet table where I had lunch on Day 2
I met a writer on the metro who’d spent the first two days navigating the book fair, pitching her book to presses she had selected ahead of time. This surprised me; I’d thought the presses were only there to sell books. I resolved to spend more time in the book fair. At first, it was hard: my natural aversion to talking to people, particularly people trying to sell me something, kicked in. Thankfully, I’d been tasked with bringing home pencils, so I forced myself to talk to anyone who had pencils at the table. I gradually came to understand the types of vendors in the book fair:
Small presses selling books and, apparently, looking for authors
Literary magazines selling subscriptions and looking for submissions
MFA programs, which include low-residency options
Residency programs, which include competitive programs that are sometimes free to attend, and programs that anyone can attend for a fee
Other: Groups for writers, groups of editors looking for writers, a service to help writers submit to literary magazines, and more
Emma Straub and Ann Patchett with the moderator
I also spent one session listening to “a conversation with Emma Straub and Ann Patchett,” which was delightful. Both women are successful writers, and they talked about their lives, how they became writers, and which 2017 books they are looking forward to.
I had noticed that the conference seemed very academic: some sessions had super-specific titles or focused on teaching writing, and the assumption seemed to be that we writers were all writing literary works. (I had hoped to meet a romance novel publisher but didn’t see a single mention of romance!) I also noticed a dearth of information about self-publishing. This struck me because I’d heard panelists (including successfully published authors) talk about the disappointments of book deals, the number of good books that don’t get published and the luck involved in successfully publishing, and the inability to live off of one’s writing royalties, even as a successful author. On the third day, I encountered outright hostility toward self-publishers in one panel, where a bookstore owner who won’t work with self-publishers made the assumption that people self-publish only because they’ve failed to publish traditionally. I was happy to find some booths in the book fair, such as the Authors Guild, that supported self-publishing.
Attending the conference helped me see its possibilities. I hope to go next year, perhaps with a book to pitch to presses, or perhaps as a panelist discussing the trials and joys of self-publishing (one can dream!).
I’ve been tying up loose ends. After ten years, I finally revisited the notes I’d made for A Short Guide to Self-Publishing. Once I had a draft manuscript, created in Word using font styles to make it easy to publish as an ebook, I decided to redo my other short guides to make them all consistent in appearance.
There were big changes in the guide How to Self-Publish an eBook, which contains all my notes from doing that process—not so much in the content but in the format. I hope it is easier to read now. You can access it here:
Okay, it’s not really a friend. It’s my original Two Blue Books website. I read that Google will be prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in its search results, and it was the final kick in the pants I needed to create a new site.
A friend helped me build the site in 2006, before the popularity of content management systems and DIY blog websites. He found a template PHP page and style sheet, and we FTP-ed them to my website host’s server and changed all the colors. I thought I should go with yellows and browns, something bread-like, but the green and pink won me over. It seemed like a tribute to the original title I had planned for Bread Science, which was Bread and Roses. (Thankfully I was talked out of it!)
My favorite part about the site, in addition to how easy it’s been (no software updates or database backups), is the random quote at the top of each page. It comes from a list in the code—here they are:
“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” —Robert Browning (1812–1889), English poet
“As we have seen, bread, and especially dry bread, evokes secretion of considerably larger quantities of saliva than meat.” —Ivan Pavlov”
“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” —Julia Child
“I understand the big food companies are developing a tearless onion. I think they can do it—after all, they’ve already given us tasteless bread.” —Robert Orben
“Without bread all is misery.” —William Cobbett (1763?–1835), British journalist
“Bread and water–these are the things nature requires. For such things no man is too poor, and whosoever can limit his desire to them alone can rival Jupiter for happiness.” —Seneca
“We have learned to see in bread an instrument of community between men—the flavour of bread shared has no equal.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“The universe of bread is made up of a nostalgia for one’s childhood, the hard work of farmers, miller and bakers and the distinctive pleasure given by something ‘authentic’ and flavourful.” —Jerome Assire
“One’s own simple bread is much better than someone else’s pilaf.” —Azerbaijani Proverb
“Never fall out with your bread and butter.” —English Proverb
“Whose bread I eat: his song I sing.” —German Proverb
“The dog wags his tail, not for you, but for your bread.” —Portuguese Proverb
“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” —Aesop
“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.” —Yiddish Proverb
“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.” —Chinese Proverb
“We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it.” —Jose Marti (1853–1895)
Each time I’ve thought about building a new site, I’ve gone to look at the old one and been arrested by how much I liked it. So before I take it down, I wanted to post this memorial, for ten years of good service.
I recently designed my second book, Somewhere and Nowhere, using Adobe InDesign for the page layout. Given the additional ten years of InDesign experience I’ve gained since my first book (when I was basically at level 0), things went much more smoothly this time. I hadn’t attempted to format any text ahead of time in Word, and I used styles and added flourishes like drop caps.
I took notes so that I’d have a guide to follow next time. I am sharing them in the hope that they might be useful to other self-publishers.
Get the EPUB file free at Gumroad: https://gum.co/InDesignEPUB
Please note: three of the images in the EPUB version would not convert properly, no matter what I tried. You can see them but they don’t look quite right.
Well, November is over, and I did it: I wrote a 50,000 word novel!
I first participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2014, when I wrote Intelligence, a new adult fiction novel that is still in the works. The goal of NaNoWriMo is simply to get a draft out, which will then be revised. It helps to be able to tell yourself, It doesn’t have to be good, just keep going.
In 2014, I felt like I had a coffee buzz the entire month. I wrote in the morning, and then went to work where my officemates consistently asked, “Are you okay?” Ideas would pop into my head all day long, and I’d race home to incorporate them.
So I was looking forward to participating this year. But it was very different. After the busiest October on record (2 weekend-long weddings, 3 day-long work events, my 20th college reunion, the state fair, and Halloween), I woke on November 1 thinking, “There’s no way I can write.” But I did. And I wrote every day after that, in spite of feeling like a slug.
I plateaued mid-month with no ideas. I’d already written everything I’d imagined, and I had 25,000 words to go. I tried to let go of the outline that had formed in my head, and new action emerged: there’d be a revolution, with a battle scene, and then the second villain would emerge, necessitating another encounter. Then in the last week, it struck me that the entire story was extremely childish and that I have no ability to craft fiction. But I kept going. So, there it is, my chart of 50,000 words in one month.
You may be wondering why I haven’t said a word about the actual novel. Well, it’s a romance novel. I wrote it because I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, it seemed too soon to start the sequel of Intelligence, and I didn’t have another idea. I also find writing romance liberating–it gives me this feeling that I can write whatever I want, which is a feeling I’d like to cultivate. And, romance may be a good way to make money as a writer, while working on additional, non-money-making projects. I’m still considering how to present my romance writing to the world–I might use a pen name to keep my bread-class-teaching self separate from my romance-writing self. So for now, I’ll just say that it’s a romance novel in a fantasy world.
The final tasks are being completed for Somewhere and Nowhere. The pages are at the proofreader’s. I’ve picked a paper and cover stock at the printer’s, and calculated the width of the spine. And I’ve (mostly) finished the cover–you can see the current version at the right.
Somewhere and Nowhere will be the same width as Bread Science, in spite of being 64 pages longer. I wanted a thinner paper to keep shipping costs down, and it seemed convenient to have the two books be the same size. (Remember, the shipping office is still Mom and Dad.) But also, the paper will be 100% recycled!
I’m still hoping to have the book printed early in 2017. Stay tuned!
While revamping this site, I came across this fun stuff; it was posted on my original website, ten years ago.
The Bread Baker’s Blessing
May the dough rise to meet you,
May the cloud of flour be always at your back,
May the oven shine warm upon your face,
May the steam fall softly upon your loaves,
And until we meet again,
May God punch-and-fold* you in the palm of His hand.
Notes: We came up with this in the bakery one day, modeling it after the Old Irish Blessing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You…” *Some bakers liked “mold,” implying God is shaping you, but I like “fold” or “punch-and-fold” which implies God is punching you down, and adding strength, so that you can rise again, even better than you were before!
Here is my friend Mary’s niece, whose exhibit on the science of bread won her science fair:
Photos from Dad
Here are my dad’s photos of “Emily on the Bread Tour.” Needless to say, he is retired: