So you want to publish a book. CONGRATULATIONS to you for dreaming big!
First thing you need to ask yourself is, have I written the book I intend to publish? If you answered No to this question, my dear, please go and start writing. A page a day or every other day but if your brain has a mind of its own, I guess you’ll write when the spirit hits. Whatever you do, just write.
You can go here to help you get out of your head and write. (The software forces you to write by erasing everything on your screen if you stop writing for 5 seconds lol. BUT it does give you access to whatever you wrote via a downloadable Word document)
If you answered Yes to the “Have a I written a book” question, good for you!
To give you a little background about me and my work, I am Ami Tamakloe. Sometimes human, sometimes alien, and other times I don’t even know what I am. This is exactly the superpower I channeled into writing in bits and pieces. I leaned into this constant grappling with self, used my experiences and read other people’s work.
Figure out what you want your book to be about and then write! Sometimes you might not know what it is about, just write! Eventually it WILL come to you.
When I decided it was time to publish, I googled “Publishing Houses.” The biggest thing these houses wanted was for the author (in this case me) to have an agent. Where could I find one of those? I currently have no membership to the group chat they belong to. I reached out to editors directly, some responded, others did not. The result was overall not great.
This became a classic case of the mountain moving if Mohammed doesn’t. I would publish a book by fire or force and because I knew this ahead of time, I PREPARED FINANCIALLY for this. I looked at my book as an investment in myself, so I saved up some of my small grad school stipend and budgeted time for this. The hustle for me was publishing the book.
TECHNICAL BOOK THINGIES
Editing: editing is rough but a necessary part of any piece of literature. WHY? There is so much we will not catch when we first write or draft a book and editing is the comb needed to detangle kinks and knots. From simple grammar issues to incoherence in especially prose-like literature, editing is QWEEN.
It is always helpful to have eyes outside of yours look at the work and give you feedback. Before you give your work to these people, let them know exactly what you are looking for. I told my editors to give me overall thoughts and in the process things like grammar and tense issues were caught. Now some of my sentence structures were INTENTIONAL creative choices so while I was thankful to my editors, I made sure to clarify WHY some sentences and structures were the way they appeared.
Reading out loud (yes, the whole book in bits and pieces) helped me further catch things I’d missed reading in my head. Editing in reality never ends so without excusing mediocrity, you will have to decide when your book is presentable enough to move into the next phase of publishing.
Book Size: First you need to figure out if your book will be print, eBook, or both.
If eBook, you’re pretty much good. If you have print or both, you must figure out the dimensions of your book. What size will your book be? A quick Google search will give you some standard book sizes you can play with.
Book Design: The cover of a book is the first thing you see, and it can either attract you or make you indifferent. Knowing this, I outsourced the book cover design on Fivver. I did not want that kind of wahala in addition to grad school workload.
Before I selected the person with whom I worked, I looked at past work they had done (which is available on their Fivver page) and paid attention to how they communicated. The last thing I wanted was to work with someone I had problems communicating with. I also chose to work with a woman because of their alignment with my ideals. My designer set up the first layout for the interior of my book. When this was done, I gave it to a second designer who is a friend. Their focus was to fine-tune the interior of the book.
My book has illustrations, poems, and prose. I made creative decisions on how I wanted them to look and feel inside the book, but I worked closely with my designers because they have the technical know-how. Setting up the interior may or may not be a priority for you. For me, it was, I could not have font styles and sizes all over the place, so I paid a friend who knew what they were doing to properly format the initial page setup created by the designer on Fivver. This did two things. Because he did not have to start the interior page layout from scratch, it cut down the amount of time used to set up the interior of the book. The elements you have inside your book will determine how you structure it.
Note: I recognize that not everyone might have the capacity to pay designers, so my advice is having honest conversations with friends who are artists. Find ways to collaborate on their projects or barter skills and services you are good at in exchange for their help. DO NOT TRY TO COERCE. However, if you don’t mind the DIY method, then Google is your best friend. Canva has a free version that can help you set up pages and design a book cover. Photopea is also a Photoshop alternative if you are well-versed in the craft of Adobe.
Printing is not your problem if you are strictly producing an eBook. On the other hand, if you have tangible versions of your book, your options for printing are contingent on where you are located, how many books you want to print, and the binding/finishing for the book. Some basic binding/finishes are the spiral and sewn. Read more on book binding here.
If you have access to spaces with a printing press (many places on the continent will have a place where they print documents, banners, etc.), ask them if they can print books in the quantity you want. If they cannot, ask for a referral to someone who can. If you are in rural America (like I am), search your locality to see what printing services are available. Before you print, make sure you have the following info:
- Book dimensions
- Number of pages
- Cover preference – is it hard cover or soft cover?
- Number of copies you’d like to print
And then ask the printing press . . .
- What options they have for you
- Cost per book for each option provided
- Print turnaround time
- Estimated shipping for desired print quantity
Note: I have heard Amazon and Barnes & Noble Press have the capacity to print and distribute for you. I printed my books through Barnes & Noble Press BUT did not sell through them because the focus of my book was not mass commercialization. If the status changes and I must print thousands or millions of copies, I most likely will have to figure out other printing solutions.
DISTRIBUTION AND SHIPPING
This part is tricky. There are websites like Bookbaby, Amazon, etc. that will walk you through most of the above processes and then distribute for you. (Barnes & Noble Press does this too) Problem is, unless you are selling LOTS of books, you most likely won’t make anything and you STILL have to cover overhead costs.
After printing my books, I decided to sell on my Squarespace-powered website. Squarespace gives you the capacity to include commerce in your site, so I took advantage of this. I pay for the website yearly, so why wouldn’t I boost my subscription to maximize whatever profits I make on my book?
Even though Squarespace provided some shipping solutions, the most cost-efficient provider I found was Easyship. I was able to sync it to my Squarespace store and whenever an order was placed on my website, it automated it into Easy ship to provide low-cost labels for shipping. Best part: if you sell less than (I think) 500 items per month, you can use it for free. As it stands, I have both eBook and soft cover books which I ship within the U.S. Unfortunately, I have not figured out cost-efficient international shipping yet. Easyship provides this but the math is not mathing.
As I said a few paragraphs up, the hustle for me was publishing the book. It was a personal milestone for my creative growth, so that WAS the focus. When it comes to marketing, I did not push as much.
I launched the book by organizing a small reading where I invited friends and community (roughly 20 people), had some food and snacks, and shared the unboxing moment with them. People used that opportunity to get signed hard copies of the book. Community came through. They most likely will come through for you if you involve them in the outdooring of your baby!
In the future, I WILL write more books. As my knowledge of the process grows, I am looking towards expanding accessibility of my literary work by working with multiple printing presses and distributors across continents.
I will continue to read works of other people to inspire my creative thinking and imagination. I will continue to share what I know as I learn it.
Until then, aluta continua!! We move!!