We believed in the stories and wanted to share them. That is what storytelling is. It is sharing, teaching, learning and it feeds our souls. A little money back does help feed the soul too though, and body…
Self Publishing is not for the faint hearted. This is our definitive conclusion having dedicated two and a half years and a fair chunk of our savings on creating and releasing our book, CO_The Creative Couples Project. The book was released for online sales in December 2014, and we celebrated in Melbourne with a Launch Party in March 2015. We then took a well-deserved and necessary break from it all. It is now June and we can happily look back and see with clearer eyes what went well and what we might do differently in the future. Firstly- DON’T DO IT AGAIN. No, but seriously there are some things we won’t be doing the same way. Going out on a limb and putting our ideas out there regardless of what the response might be- THAT we would do again. We feel more courageous and less concerned about what people might think because basically we did this and survived. No one hated on us too badly and we even inspired some people. That is a pretty great feeling. So read on if you are interested in the ins and outs of being mad enough to self publish…
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A NECESSARY EVIL
Social Media. There really is no way around it. You need it. We began trying to build an interest in our book way before it was completed. It was a hard task, as we were relative newcomers to the scene (you know, waiting for someone else to tell you you’re ‘someone’ too) and are not particularly interested in self-promotion. We hid behind our ‘brand’ which was in this case the book, which we were simply referring to early on as the Creative Couples Project. The reason was, we were sourcing stories about creative people; the book wasn’t about us. We weren’t tooting our own horns. So we got onto Twitter, got a Facebook Page, and posted regularly from our Blog/Website. Instagram proved to be one of the more visible and ‘sociable’ places to connect with people, after Twitter started to dry out. Facebook had its moments, but really disappointed us on a few levels. For starters, their infamous change in algorithms (hey at least it put the word algorithm out there) meant that fewer people were seeing our posts. Even regularly commenting on some of our favourite pages barely helped us reach a wider audience. Granted we really aren’t as pushy as we perhaps needed to be, but harassment isn’t going to sell us any more books. I’d probably say that in future we’d use Instagram a lot more, followed by Twitter- where if you keep short and sharp and interact a lot you can make some good connections.
MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND
It is a sad fact, no matter how idealistic or how much you subscribe to the pay it forward ethos, you need some cold, hard dinero to get your dream project off the ground. Where it comes from is the only question.
Funding bodies: Depending on your project, where you live and other factors, there may be a grant out there to help lift your creative project. We explored these, and applied for a little one but ultimately I think our project was a little too hard to categorise. We had LGBTIQ and straight couples, a broad range of ages and backgrounds. What are you, people must have thought. Plus we moved across three states and without a solid base to identify with that made the regional or local funding bodies tricky to target. Oh well. Having funded and successfully launch one project may well bode well for future applications.
Pozible was the route we chose, and we successfully had our $2000 project funded which went toward paying for photography, graphics, and a bit of the printing. Hint: Don’t wait for the Pozible machine to promote your project- you can feel like a drop in the ocean at times with so many projects out there. Make sure people know exactly what they get and how to contribute. And be GRATEFUL and HUMBLE. There are so many projects we would love to support but just don’t have the spare funds. Sharing it on social media or telling people about it is a huge help as well. We had friends post flyers and that meant the world to us, and still does.
Basically unless you have a money well you source small buckets of money from each day, you are going to need to balance regular life with your creative vampire life. You get home from work and hit social media, write, check your Pozible status. Soon it’s midnight and you wonder why you’re self-publishing at all. Then you remember you’re not JK Rowling or Gina Rinehart’s child. Oh wait, even they can’t get a break! So get some sleep- the book will happen, just give yourself a realistic time frame. Two years seems like an eternity when you begin, but when your proof print is in your hands you’ll wonder where the time went. We look back and wonder how we worked and studied full time, had any kind of social life (our friends may disagree) and had a baby all whilst making this book. We are awesome.
THE END… IS JUST THE BEGINNING
You have just hit the full stop key on the last word of the last sentence of your masterpiece. Off to the printers! No. You cannot edit your own book. I don’t care who you are and how much you pride yourself on tearing up people’s syntax on Facebook. We’ve all read finely edited novels released by fancy publishing houses who have somehow still left the L out of PUBLIC. I have seen it with my own inferior eyes. Join Writers Victoria or your own local chapter and get subscribe to their journal- you should be already doing this. They have classifieds and ads for editors and often article by editors themselves. I dare say (and editors- don’t hate on me here) that you even get a second or third set of eyes to go over your manuscript to pick up on the kind of things an editor might not be looking at. Word of caution- be selective as to who you ask for feedback from. Some opinions are not helpful and people may just want to add their own creative contribution. You wouldn’t just get someone from the general pubic to edit your book, would you?
The words are tidy and the graphics look shiny. Oh… you didn’t research a printer yet? Do this early, as you may find you change your mind several times before settling on the right one. You may be looking at a self-publishing company to do the whole thing for you but there may be other options for you. Again, there are editors out there you can pay. But then there’s the other stuff… layout, design, cover art, ISBN… Let us give you our two bob.
They make it sound tricky. It isn’t. Do it yourself. Get onto this website and have a look. Get your barcode here too.
Graphics and layout
Ok, so this gets a little more specific. You may just want to learn the skills yourself, but there may be another option. We were lucky enough to know our wonderful designer Alyson Pearson who took all our Word docs, images and layout requests and turned them into an actual book. She had the skills, we trusted and loved her work; we hired her. Easy. Chances are if you are a creative person, you have creative friends or acquaintances. Put the call out and see who you may know who does this. This is where the crowdfunding money can contribute. Or again- set aside some money for this well ahead of time. You may get mates rates, particularly if you are flexible with your deadline.
Digital or Offset? And other printerly concerns…
It took us a while to find the right printer and we got quite a few quotes before we settled on Print Bound (now Rooster IMC) . The reasons we did so were as follows, and may not apply to you.
• They were willing to do a short print run. Not all printers will.
• Digital printing cost us less, and we were also thinking about the environmental footprint. As a lover or all things printmaking related, we were still wanting eco factors to be high up on how we printed the book. It mattered to us and to our readers. Digital printing addressed this for us.
• They were flexible with our proofs, allowing us to make changes after we checked and re-checked.
• They keep your file and can reprint another run and have it on your doorstep in a matter of days. This was a godsend for us, as when we almost sold out of the first run, we didn’t want a break in sales, and needed more for the launch party as well. Super turnaround.
SELL SELL SELL MUAHAHAHAHA…
Yeah, so if you are self-publishing to make a huge profit, find another hobby. Publishing your own book is good for the soul, but not so great for the bank account. Why did we self-publish?
We had a dream, and we didn’t want to wait for someone to give us approval to follow it. We believed in the stories and wanted to share them. That is what storytelling is. It is sharing, teaching, learning and it feeds our souls. A little money back does help feed the soul too though, and body…
So now you get to choose where to sell your books. If you’re smart and have an agent, they’ll do that crazy shit for you. Our humble project meant humble outlets. Another thing to consider is that although you pay all your bills and invoices on time (you do, don’t you?) you can’t expect others will, unfortunately. Just allow for that. And nobody will be as passionate about promoting your book as you will. Expect for maybe Pete Goodlet.
One benefit of having used Pozible was that once you have a physical product to sell, you can change your page to a Pozible Shop. The only fees are PayPal and of course a little fee to Pozible too. The great thing about this is we get most of the profits which really helps a lot and means you can put some more money in the piggy bank. After you sticky tape it back together. You also get a neat spreadsheet of sales for your records.
The downside is there are people who just don’t buy online and you miss out on a chunk of a potential customer base. You are also at the mercy of their website and if it’s down, you may lose sales without realising it. True story. Just keep on top of it.
You write a book so that people will read it, basically. So having it in bookshops means this is technically more likely to happen. But many a wonderful tome has sat on shelves waiting to be touched. Selling on consignment means you are waiting for someone to discover your book on said shelf. It may be worth seeing whether they will pop a poster in their window, or allow a few postcards on their counter to draw sales.
So you can feel a sense of accomplishment at having your book in a real bookshop. And you support your local bookshop when you buy from them. They do take a larger piece of the pie than selling them yourself, and the money isn’t instant but it may be worth it regardless.
And a word of advice- giving someone a free copy doesn’t mean a return gesture of promotion or some other act of goodwill. By the time you give out copies to people who are expecting it, you may need to peel that sticky tape off Miss Piggy.
Finally, one of the loveliest upsides of writing and publishing a book was the copies required to be sent to the National and State Libraries. Called a Legal Deposit, it means every book out there gets to be held in their collection. It is a super nice feeling. Sometimes that little icing on the cake really helps remind you of why you did this in the first place.
CO_The Creative Couples Project by Belinda Raposo & Cecile Knight, published by Raposo Knight Publications. Photography by Michelle Dunn.
BUY ONLINE through our Pozible Shop.
In Melbourne at Hares & Hyenas
In Northern New South Wales at Heidi’s Place Books, and Bowerbird Emporium.
If you are a bookseller, or niche shop of any kind and wish to stock our book, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org