All right, the time has come. You’re thinking of self-publishing a book and you’re wondering what that entails. Well, you’ve come to the right place. This book is my sixth published, and of those, my fourth self-published. For me it’s worked out well. I honestly wouldn’t go back to a traditional publisher unless he or she paid me a huge, nonrefundable advance up front, and threw me a lavish book launching party that included guests like Stephen King, Neil De-Grasse Tyson, Anna Quindlen, Doris Goodwin Kearns, Jon Stewart, and that guy in my condo building with the bumper sticker on his rusted out Silverado that says “Part time organic chemist—full time Ninja.” Actually, I’m only kid- ding. I’d do it just for the advance alone. Screw the party. But since neither a party nor an advance has been offered to me from a publisher yet, I’ll continue to self-publish.
Lucky for you because each time I do it I learn something new. Plus, the technology changes (for the better, I think) and in order to stay on top of it, I have to keep pumping out books. Case in point, this is the second edition of this book since it originally came out in 2015. It’s that practice-what-you-preach thing. Overall, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I have to admit, however, I never set out to become a Memoir Midwife®—which is just a funny little term I coined to describe the fact that I like to help people self-publish their books, memoir or otherwise.
In reality, your book doesn’t have to be a memoir for me to get involved. I just like the alliteration.
But ironically the term Memoir Midwife® works on many levels. In my twisted universe I really do feel that being pregnant and giving birth to a child is somewhat analogous to writing a book and having it published. In both cases you go through the gestation process of building something from nothing. And then once you present that thing to the world, you have a bit of influence over it, but in the end, it pretty much goes its own way. And if that outcome exceeds everyone’s expectations (even yours), well then, aren’t you a genius of a parent? Or author? And if, on the other hand, it ends up being a huge disappointment, then what the hell were you thinking? The world judgmentally dubs you a goon for even trying.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the point at which your project has not even been born yet. My part as your publishing coach (see, that just doesn’t flow as well as “Memoir Midwife®”) is not to write your book (or in other words, give birth to it) for you. But rather to supportively sit on the side- lines and yell “Breathe! Breathe! You can do it!” when the going gets tough and you just want to bash someone’s face in due to the pain and frustration of trying to launch this thing out into the world. I’ll calmly offer Zen-like, experiential advice and talk you down off the ledge, staying well out of reach of your flailing arms.
Another similarity is that just like there are nine months to pregnancy, there are nine steps to self-publishing your book. Coincidence? I think not. Okay, well, maybe it is a coincidence (one that I helped concoct, actually), but I like to think the Cosmos had a little something to do with it.
In 2011, I self-published my book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom, and as a result I was all over the media nationwide that summer, doing promotion AND talking about self-publishing. Someone from the University of Utah heard me on the radio, called me up, and asked if I’d be interested in teach- ing a self-publishing course as part of the university’s Lifelong Learning program. I said “Sure,” but then that meant I had to get organized. I realized self-publishing entailed several repetitive steps, regardless the topic of the book. So I developed a curriculum that systematically went through each of those steps. Quite by accident (and really to get things straight in my own head) I ended up taking a complicated process and breaking it down into digestible, bite-sized pieces.
My University of Utah course was a night class across multiple weeks, and every time I finished teaching it, at least one student would ask if I had a book that summarized the self-publishing steps I had just presented. I admitted I did not—mainly because self-publishing technology is a moving target and I didn’t want to have to continually update my book.
But then, for the people who couldn’t commit to a weekly night class, I independently created a one-day workshop (usually held on a Saturday) called “How to Self-publish Your Book.” (I know—catchy title, right?) And I decided in this case, a text- book would be helpful. So I sat down and wrote brief overviews of each self-publishing step. And after several iterations, and multiple updates, that initial effort has since evolved into the book you’re holding in your inquisitive, little hands right now.
As you read it, you’ll notice that the chapters are very short and to the point. I purposely did that because I don’t want the process to appear overwhelming, making it sound like you need an MBA and a law degree just to self-publish a book, because honestly, you don’t. I try to stick to the highlights of each step, giving you just the pertinent information on an as-needed basis. And even though I occasionally offer random tips and words of caution here and there, for the most part I avoid getting bogged down in all the possible scenarios that could happen when you self-publish your book. (Trust me, you’ll encounter those all on your own.)
In any case, suffice it to say after reading this you will have the basic tools and knowledge required to self-publish a book.
But just to be fair, let me share with you what you WON’T get out of this tutorial.
If you’ve ever taken my self-publishing class or my one-day workshop, you’ll notice that this book does not include the sales and marketing aspect of my curriculum. In my class and workshop I go over a marketing plan for you to use after you self-publish your book. In fact, that’s half the class. Because let’s face it, you can write the best book in the world, but if no one buys it and reads it, then what’s the point? But for the purposes of this book I just discuss the steps you need to self-publish a book. Period. Selling it after that is a whole other animal, which would go beyond the scope of this lesson. The first step is to get your book written and self-published. Once that’s done you can tackle how you’re going to get it into the collective hands of the public.
That all said, I fully admit this book simplifies a much bigger picture, not unlike those parenting tomes that prep you on what it’s like to give birth. Think of this as the self-publishing version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s meant to give you an idea of what you’re in for and (hopefully) provide the confidence you need to push forward.
Speaking of which, I also thought it would be fun to provide little incentives to entice you to keep going as you make your way through this book.
Just like crossing off days on a calendar when you’re pregnant, I’ve provided a checklist at the end of each chapter, so that you can prove to yourself that you’re making headway. If you’re like me you like to make “to-do” lists, and there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing things off your list. Why? Because a “to-do” list item with a check mark next to it or a line through it can only mean one thing—progress.
So there you have it; everything you need to know ahead of time about the nine steps required to self-publish your book. If there is any one thing I want you to remember when you use what you learn here to accomplish your own literary goals, it’s this: Theory is always easier, and makes much more sense than practice. Therefore, don’t get too discouraged if you run into some bumps in the road while embarking upon your own self-publishing journey. To be honest, both pregnancy and self-publishing had me tearing my hair out when I went through each the first time. And I wasn’t even hormonal when I self-published my first book. (Well...not as much, anyway.) Even if something doesn’t go as planned, just keep plowing forward.
And if you need a bright side on which to look, I’ll throw you this bone. A book doesn’t borrow your car, eat all your food, or require money for college. It also won’t date a loser, call in the middle of the night begging for bail money, or throw a tantrum in the middle of Walmart. It can, however, break your heart just as easily as a son or daughter. But then again, it may not. Maybe, just maybe, self-publishing your book could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
I’m here to tell you, it’s worth the risk.