The self-publishing rabbit hole: lessons learned in book-writing Wonderland
This post was written by my delightful, driven and deeply committed client Cas McCullough and was originally published on casmccullough.com.
I feel she’s perfectly captured the journey of growth and clarity that each author takes as their book slowly shows how it wants to be in the world. Have a read, it’s really worth five minutes out of your day.
62,498 words. The number stared at me and I just couldn’t take it in. Two years of my life have gone by in a blink. What started out as a revision of an ebook I’d written four years ago, has resulted in an entirely new book that has taken me down the rabbit hole, into Wonderland, complete with evil Queen and demonic caterpillars.
While my blog has suffered a little this year, I am pleased that I’ve focused on birthing my book. Rather than spread myself too thinly, I thought it wise to put energy into a project that will reap long-term benefits for small business marketers and budding women entrepreneurs.
Now that I’ve sent the book off to the proof-reader, I thought it would be timely to reflect on the process and share what I’ve learned about self-publishing.
1. Your first finished draft is by no means finished
This book has gone through no less than 30 revisions and has been reviewed and edited by loyal CMC community members, my editor, friends, my sister and my cat. In his book Author Publisher Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki truthfully said you’re not writing a book, you’re rewriting a book. That scared me when I first read those words but now I get it. The result is a book that clearly has the reader in mind and isn’t a rant or soapbox.
2. Your book will change as you change
To say that life has changed over the past two years is a massive understatement. In the past two years I have built a new and thriving content marketing consultancy, started a new company, created courses, programs and systems to help small businesses be more productive and effective with their marketing, survived a marriage breakdown, gained confidence, perspective and wisdom, raised and educated three boys, faced my inner demons, dealt with nay sayers and endured the behaviour of narcissistic competitors. The effect of all this on the book has been many small changes made to the manuscript over time that have reflected my maturing perspective on life, communication and entrepreneurship. Upon looking at the first draft, I now see a different person reflected in those words. Writing a book is truly one of the best self-development programs you can do!
3. Communication with stakeholders is a continuous process
I made a big mistake while writing this book. I asked 20 women entrepreneurs to share their stories, but when my life went to hell last year, I neglected to keep them in the loop. When I finally got around to sending them their edited stories, some didn’t even remember sending me the originals. I was mortified. After a pep talk by my editor I stopped beating myself up about it and resolved to get better at communicating regularly in the future. I’m still not quite there yet. There is a lot on my plate–working with clients on their content, meeting the needs of my growing boys and whipping this manuscript into shape. However, even just a quick note to your stakeholders is better than no word at all. Keep people in the loop! Note to self: practice what thou preaches!
One thing I have done is talk about the book on social media as I’ve been writing it. There’s been a lot of interest and excitement, which has helped to keep me focused and given me a boost when I’ve not felt like writing.
4. Always take time to let off steam
Writing a book is a highly intense and frustrating creative process that can leave you feeling like punching something, so it’s good to have an outlet. For me, that outlet has been dance. If I don’t get to my Zumba class at least once a week, I just don’t function as well. For you it might be running, drawing, or jumping out of an airplane! Do something that makes you feel alive!
5. You don’t have to throw a launch party the minute your book is printed
This was a big lesson for me. When you put so much time and energy into writing your book, it’s easy to forget about marketing the book. If you are so consumed in the writing stage that you don’t have time to start planning for your launch, that’s okay. It really is. While I’m a huge advocate for sharing about your book and building your platform during the writing stage (as I have done), I’ve learned that I don’t need to host a big launch party as soon as it goes to print. For now, I’m going to breathe in and out, get a few copies printed for reviewers, and after I’ve had time to plan properly, I’ll get stuck into launching the book. I was going to do a one day Amazon launch but have since decided that artificially inflating the books sales figures is not necessarily a good idea. I’ve talked to authors who have done that and authors that haven’t, and the consensus is that it doesn’t really help that much. I would hope that if my book is a best-seller, I got there on my own steam because the book was worthy of being read. Really, at the end of the day, my goal is to help women entrepreneurs reach their potential. If I help just one have a breakthrough, that’s enough for me. If I help more than one, that’s a bonus!
Cas’s book Your Brilliant Un-Career: Women, entrepreneurship and making the leap is due to be printed within the next two to three weeks.
Cas touches on many of the hard-to-swallow aspects of writing and publishing. It’s a journey, of learning, of personal development and of business. But like most journeys, it’s worth every step.