We write the book, we publish the book, we sell the book, we promote the book.
It is an incredible journey and one that demands everything you have to give.
It is not unlike scaling a high and distant mountain, whose peak is forever and always a long, long way away.
Yet, we keep going.
Because the longing is the path – as well as the entire purpose for the journey.
There is no ‘there’.
Because the moment you arrive at one landmark, another is demanding your attention.
Below are a few thoughts and ideas to get you going – and keep you going.
And if you’d like some support, guidance or help, check out The Write Road.
The publishing journey – self-publishing or otherwise – can be divided into three sections –
- marketing and promotion.
There is absolutely no point in pouring time and energy into
how you’re going to publish a book, if you haven’t written one.
There is absolutely no point in pouring time and energy into how you’re going to publish a book if you haven’t written one – or at least have access to one that is already written.
This may sound obvious – but you’d be surprised how many people contact me asking for advice on publishing who haven’t even begun to write their book. I have come to understand that these people immerse themselves in the publishing process as a way of distracting themselves from writing the book their heart and soul are longing to write.
FIRST AND FOREMOST – write your book. Give it all of your attention, all of your devotion, and all of your available time and energy.
Because the kind of energy you need for navigating the world of publishing is radically different from the energy you’ll be accessing through the realms of creativity and writing.
When you are writing, if you are surrendering to the book that is demanding to be written, you are accessing a more etheric world, a gentler world, a world beyond time and boundary.
Thinking about publishing will hurt your brain when you are in this place. It will distress you. It will disturb you.
This is important – pay no attention to publishing while you are writing.
In this way, you will be free to write the book that is demanding to be written, and you will be free to write without judgement – self judgement – and free to write without expectations, from your potential readers, your family and your friends.
Your book cannot be successful if you tie yourself in knots thinking about what others want to read – or what others will have to say about it – or whether or not some important person you are unlikely to have access to anyway is going to want to publish it.
When you are writing devote yourself only to writing.
When I wrote my book, I made no commitment to publishing. In truth, I always knew I would publish it, but I refused to have the conversation with people before I was ready.
Because the thought of publishing a book was SO overwhelming – so overwhelming – that I made a vow: I would give my attention only to that part of the process that was immediately demanding my attention.
So while I was writing, I gave my attention only to writing.
Then came the day that my attention turned to publishing – and it was lit by a start question: how do you publish a book?
The answer is simple, the same answer that applies to anything at all we set out to do in our life: You start where you are.
So I started with an editor. How did I find one? I stumbled about until I stumbled upon an Australian editors website. I sent them a message requesting an editor and was suddenly aflood with editors. In an inbox nanosecond I went from ‘where do I find an editor’ to ‘how do I choose an editor?’.
Here is the joy and the terror, all at once: on this journey you will be making decisions about things you know nothing about.
And guess what? The earth doesn’t fall in! You keep going. There is no right and no wrong decision. Just this or that, followed quickly by ‘well I won’t do that again’ or ‘what’s next?’
Then came the typesetter – because my brief to myself was that my book would be indistinguishable from books published by the mainstream: my book would not look self published.
Unfortunately for me I engaged a proof reader after the typesetter, a seemingly minor error that cost me a small fortune as the typesetter had to rejig all his lovely page by page design efforts.
Production was the flying blind part of my journey. People thought I was brave walking across Italy, through the Balkans and into the Middle East – that was nothing compared to know-nothing journey that led me through the self publishing minefield.
WHY SELF PUBLISH?
You have a manuscript. Someone thinks it’s beautiful.
Do you enter it in awards? Yes.
Do you start ringing agents to find out if they want to read it? Yes.
Do you send it to Allen and Unwin’s Friday Pitch? Yes.
Yes yes yes yes.
And then you sit down, and you make a practice of sitting down, and you get in touch with your own pulse – and from there your own impulses.
And you let your soul lead the way.
There is no right way to publish a book – but there is a right way
for you to publish a book, and only you can know what that is.
My greatest impulse was to self-publish because the thought of spending two years knocking on the doors of important people asking them to approve of me – or reject me – was just not a good use of my time and energy and resources.
I was skiing on the slopes of Queenstown as a celebration of completing my second manuscript when a logo came to me, followed quickly by a name – Voyager Moon.
And I knew then I would establish an imprint and publish my book myself – knowing all the while that if a publisher wanted it they could have it.
But in the meantime, I would use my time and energy and resources productively by publishing a book myself.
And so I began.
I immersed myself in that whirlwind of finding graphic designers, editors, proofreaders, typesetters and printers.
I overcame industry advice that claimed and proclaimed my book would never be published before Christmas ‘because the big publishers have booked all the printers’.
How did I find not one but several printers whose presses were free to publish my book before Christmas? Because I didn’t know it couldn’t be done!
My book was launched in November – just four months later.
MARKETING AND PROMOTION
I guarantee you that if I’d paid attention to any single step before I was ready for that part of the process I would have buckled with the enormity of the task – especially if I’d expended precious time thinking about marketing and promotion.
So if there is any single piece of advice you want to take from this little spiel take this – give your attention only to that which needs to be done.
Because if you decide to self-publish you will often wonder, ‘yeah, me and who’s army?’
This is a solo journey.
And marketing is THE most difficult and demanding part of the journey.
No matter how well-intentioned, no matter how supportive, your friends and family – their advice is always always always just another opinion.
Everyone will have great advice for you – and everyone will have an opinion about what you need to do – and, worse, what you should do – but remember they have no idea what they are talking about.
You – and only you – are responsible for the next step forward.
People often ask me how I found the ‘right’ editor, proofreader, typesetter, printer – I didn’t. I Googled, I scribbled down a few numbers and then I started ringing around.
I chose people who were willing to have the conversation with me.
I flew blind low to the ground in the dark.
Here are the things that got me through – and are still getting me through:
Faith – commitment – devotion – celebration –
diligence – enthusiasm – patience.
This journey is not unlike a spiritual path.
It will command everything from you.
It brooks no fear.
You will stumble.
You will feel like you’re crawling on your knees across burning desert sands. You will find an oasis and lie back on the warm sands for a moment’s respite.
You will take risks.
You will make decisions about things I know nothing about.
And you will keep going keep going keep going.
You will cast out doubt.
And keep going.
The desert sands will become a raging stormy sea.
You will panic.
You will feel distressed and alone and a long, long way from safe harbour.
There is nothing else to do but keep going.
Your bank balance will dwindle.
You will keep going.
Here is where the lessons of pilgrimage served me very well.
The first two lessons of the road are:
1. keep going forward
2. this too will pass.
HOW DID I DO IT SUCCESSFULLY?
By giving my attention only to that which needed doing in any particular moment – by giving my full attention to any single part of the process.
By having faith that everything I needed to know would present to me at the moment I needed to know it.
By trusting my ability to make a decision – over and over and over again.
By feigning confidence that there were no ‘wrong’ decisions.
By being accepted by a distributor – there is no way I would be available in every shop in Australia if it were not for the goodwill and support of my distributor.
And by being able to use my journalistic skills to access mainstream media newsrooms to get my story out there.
The journey is massive – the challenges are enormous.
Everything is on the line.
And it’s a very alone path.
Self publishing is an act of love. An act of devotion. An act of commitment to one’s own creative life.
There are times I have panicked and let fear have its way with me.
I have worried about money. I have worried about ‘success’. I have worried about having to pitch a tent in the wilderness because I’d given the book everything I have to give.
And that’s when I realized that my little boat was a long long way from the shore. That I had no choice but to keep paddling, to trust my own guiding light was going to lead me somewhere alive and true.