Friday, February 11, 2011

My Book-Writing & Publishing Journey

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Many of you have asked me questions about the process of writing a book. Here is a bit about my book-writing and publishing story for Totally Desperate Mom: Keepin' it Real in the Motherhood.

About three years ago I spoke to the MOPS at my church on "Taking Care of Mom." Author, speaker, women's ministry director at my church, and friend Debbie Alsdorf approached me after my talk, "You've got to write a book about this stuff and call it Totally Desperate Mom." (I had used that phrase in my talk).

She was full of energy and excitement."I'm going to talk to my publisher about you. I'm going to email them about you today!"

I was full of puking and and Taco Bell cravings and thought No way in Jose.

Then Jordis was born. She was a cool baby and all, but she was the third. The desperate mom material was hurled at me. Every day. So I decided to write.
After I finished a few chapters and put together a book proposal I gave it to Debbie. When Debbie met with her publisher (about other stuff) and tried to get them excited about my desperation . . . they weren't even interested in reading it. Because of the economy they were only publishing authors with whom they already contracts. I figured if I had that kind of connection and couldn't even get looked at . . . forgettaboutit.

I decided to look into self-publishing. I did research online, talked to some different authors who had done traditional publishing and self-publishing, spoke with representatives from several self-publishing companies, prayed, and decided to go for it.

Here's a few reasons why self-publishing made sense in my situation:

1. My goal was not to make a fortune or be a New York Times Bestselling author which, by the way, is very hard to do. I love to write and I wanted have something to leave with moms when I speak to mom groups, teach Bible study, or breakdance for cash on Third Street Promenade. I also thought it would be a cool thing for my kids to have someday. Sure, they will be embarrassed by some stuff, but they'll get over it. With therapy.

2. We were in a financial position where I could afford to self-publish and do it up right -- paying to have an editor/coach, design team, and proofreader. Cuz you know, a lot of self-published books read and look like they are homemade and . . . yuck. Didn't want that.

3. I didn't want to spend a lot of time sending out queries to agents/publishers, waiting for a response. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Especially since the chances were slim that I would get a contract. I wanted to use the book to encourage mothers of preschoolers while I was still one of them. I didn't send my proposal to any literary agents or publishers, except to one agent who was a friend of my father-in-law. She didn't handle my genre, but I wanted to get a set of professional eyes to give me some feedback.

Her feedback would help me to decide if I should do Print on Demand or offset printing. Print on demand is the what most self-publishing authors do. The book is not printed until an order is received. Less up-front costs and on the safer side. You won't be stuck with a bunch of coasters, I mean, books. In offset printing you order a large volume of books before orders are placed. A large volume of books that usually end up collecting dust in the garage, from what several people in the industry told me. A riskier and more costly investment.

I was very impressed and appreciative that this busy literary agent would take the time to read my proposal. Here is the feedback she gave me:

I received your materials, and I must say, I was quite taken with your spirited, contemporary writing style and voice. Our agency receives quite a few Mommy memoirs & Mommy manuals and they are, let's say, wanting. I just heard on NPR's Marketplace about the growing MommyBlog community, and how some of the top bloggers have parlayed this into book deals. These are bloggers getting hundreds of thousands of new visitors a month, however, and from what I could tell on your website, you have about 40 followers, not to say that your blog doesn't get visited by people who don't identify themselves as followers. (And I don't know whether the "follower" status is voluntary or not...)
Anyway, I think your material is very good, but as your writer friend probably advised you, without what they call a national "platform" it's really difficult to get a large publisher to take a chance on a new writer. Again, the bloggers that have done well have managed to cultivate internet audiences in the millions.

I'm probably one of the few agents who actually encourages people to self-publish when they are in a situation such as yours. The stigma against self-publishing does exist, but it can be overcome. You have to be very entrepreneurial, and you seem to have a strong network of friends who would support your efforts and help promote your work. 600 FB friends is a great start! And you have the advantage of drawing from a supportive church community, which certainly has national potential. If you went this route and managed to sell 10,000 plus copies, then you'd certainly draw the interest of the larger traditional publishers who are looking for projects which have a proven audience.

Another route would be to approach the many Christian publishers who typically don't require an agent. You can find out a lot about these publishers on the internet, and you'd want to pursue those that are seeking a contemporary voice such as yours and featured book titles that are not necessarily scholarly. Our agency doesn't have many contacts in the Christian publishing world, but its my understanding that some of them are seeking to attract a younger, hip readership.

Thanks so much for sending me your material which I enjoyed reading. I wish you the best of success!
From my research it appears most self-published authors sell less than 200 copies. I read that one major self-publishing company considers 500 copies sold a bestseller. Despite that information, that agent's words of encouragement (along with some cheerleading from my dad, husband, and cousin Jimmer) pushed me over the edge . . . to go ahead with offset printing. Five thousand copies.

4. We have a three-car garage. I have a place to store books. Several Boxes of Totally Desperate Mom: Keepin' it Real in the Motherhood are temporarily kickin' it my garage. In seven months I've sold over 13oo books. Only 3700 more to go. Child's play, right?

* If you are interested in hearing more about the self-publishing or book-writing process, what I have learned about book sales, what has been the most effective way to market my books, Amazon sales, e-book stuff, or any other booky questions then leave a comment. I will do another post answering those questions.

* If you are interested in learning more about how traditional publishing works I highly recommend you check out literary agent Rachelle Gardner's blog. She offers great writing tips and provides insight into the world of traditional publishing, agents, book proposals, writer's conferences, and more. There are other agent blogs out there, but I have not even checked out many of them because Rachelle's is that good.

*If you are interested in clearing out my garage you can order Totally Desperate Mom directly through me, Amazon, or request it at your local bookstore.
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Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

Thank you for writing this important post! I am in the process of considering self publishing--for the same reasons you found it appealing..being able to have a book to put in the hands of ladies after I speak to their group. Would love to learn more about the process you went through!

TDM Wendy said...

Do you have any specific questions? Give me a place to start . . .

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I have considered publishing my poetry for years, but just need some shoves in the right direction!

TDM Wendy said...

Go for it!

Gina said...

Thanks for the post. I was kind of bummed that I had only sold 500 copies, but I now know that I'm a bestselling author!

I would love to hear your best tips for marketing and selling. I was not self-published, but my publisher didn't do much to market the book. Most of my sales were in the first year.


TDM Wendy said...

You are a bestseller! I will talk about what has worked and what hasn't worked as far as promoting and marketing when I do the follow-up post!
Thanks for poppin' in.

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

I am new to your blog and I am so glad that I have found it. I have been reading over your posts and they are really great. So interesting. You have been Blessed with a lot of great adventures!Look so forward to reading more.

TDM Wendy said...

Welcome Alicia! Thanks for the kind words!

My Little Bit of Life said...

I have just started thinking about publishing. I entered a contest, only to have the contest extended 6 months!! I guess I would like to know where to start and if you are willing to share, how much do the different avenues of self-publishing cost?

chris fore said...

wendy, which self publishing house did you use? And did they do the E book for you, as part of the package?
Thanks for this info, very helpful. I'm working on a book now.