I’m proud to announce that my poetry collection Whisperings is now available on Amazon Kindle for $1.99. If you have previously purchased a paperback book, then you can download the Kindle version for free =)
Now that the bulk of the “creation” process is complete, I thought I would share a little about my experience with publishing.
I always knew I wanted to publish a poetry book by the time I turned 30, so when I hit my 28th birthday, I decided it was time to start the process. The first task was to collate all of my poems. I had to rummage through all my poetry journals, class assignments, blogs, forums, and Facebook notes to locate every single poem that I wrote. There were well over 100 poems that I wrote over the past 10 years. Then I had to weed out the bad poems and tweak the good ones. I typed all the ones that I deemed “good” as individual notepad files for easy compilation later on. Finally, I had to put together a rough Table of Contents to ensure that the poems somehow flowed together. That process took well over a year because it wasn’t the most fun thing to do (not for me anyways).
Once I decided which poems I wanted to include, I needed to determine what size book I wanted and how I was to publish it (as I didn’t want to have to redo my formatting). I suppose I never really trusted publishers because they would often charge for marketing fees, receive the rights to your book and also give you a smaller royalty. Publish America (which has since changed its name to America Star Books) randomly contacted me back in 2004 and I decided to write a book as an experiment. I had a name in mind “Bittersweet Memories” and so I spent some time coming up with a plot, breaking it down and creating a simple book. I designed the cover and sent the book to Publish America. They edited and published it for free. I sold a few copies to friends, never paid for marketing services and did minimal marketing myself. I wasn’t disappointed because I never expected to get a lot of sales. I didn’t plan to write a book, it just happened.
With my poetry collection, I was a little more ambitious. I spent many years writing these poems, and they are a part of my heart and soul. While I still don’t expect to become really famous and gain lots of sales, I want to share my poetry with more than just my friends. I wanted to put more time and energy into marketing without spending money on services. When I found out a successful and talented friend of mine started a blog and self-published her book The Reporter & The Girl Minus the Super Man, I decided to give self-publishing a shot.
After a little bit of research, I decided to go with CreateSpace, which was the same company that she had used, because it had the best perks. It was an Amazon company, provided good print options in terms of sizes and distribution, had good royalty options, and was reasonably priced. The UI was easy to use. I experimented first with the 6×9 industry standard, but later switched to 5×8 because it worked better with the formatting of my poems.
In anticipation of the launch of my book, I decided to create a blog, twitter account and Facebook page to promote it. I think it has been successful in providing more awareness. Honestly, I haven’t been as successful as other authors (most likely because I’m not writing the right posts, spending enough time visiting other blog sites, doing enough research on what to post, and commenting and guest blogging). I think it’s part luck and part work. Marketing is definitely a lot of work, and probably not one of my strengths since I’m innately not very social =)
Of course, I never expected to be an overnight success story, and I probably never will be. However, writing this blog has taught me self-discipline to at least publish 1 post a week and get involved with the writing community. I also met a few friends here, and that has been nice.
Anyhow, I went off-track, so let me get back to the story. The next step in the process was creating the actual book. Based on the initial Table of Contents that I had drafted and using the template that CreateSpace provided, I went ahead and compiled all my poems into a Word document. I then sent it off to 3 friends to proofread for me. I wanted them to focus on flow, grammar and whether the collection belonged together. It took a few months for them to get back to me.
While I waited for my editors, I started designing my cover. I asked myself what feelings I wanted to evoke with my book and decided, soul-searching and nostalgia was what I was going for. I looked through my collection of photos and settled on two designs. If you can remember, I had a poll on this blog to help me decide on the cover). After a few more iterations, I ended up with a color version of my cover (seen above). I used the guidelines provided by CreateSpace to ensure that the bleed was correct. A friend also suggested that I obtain a QR code and include it on the cover, so people would link back to my website. I liked the idea, so I did it. It cost $4.99.
Once my book and cover was finalized, I submitted it to CreateSpace and mailed a proof to myself. I made some tweaks, and resubmitted it. I have to admit, the hardest part was getting the spine of the cover correct. I kept wanting it to be perfect, but I don’t think that’s really possible since the binding will be slightly different each time. After about 4 tries, I decided it was good enough and published it on October 15, 2014. The paperback version can be purchased from Amazon for $9.98. Since I wanted the book to be purchasable internationally and from libraries, that was the absolute lowest price I could sell it for.
While going back and forth with my proofs, I also sent my book off to the copyright office. That cost about $60, and took a few months, but I do have my certificate now =) I didn’t get it until January 2015.
Of course, the journey doesn’t end there. I decided that in order to promote my book, I also had to get more involved in the local writing community. I started attending local readings at the Willow Glen library and at Cafe Lift. I plan to expand my horizons beyond that, if time permits. You can see one of my readings here. I also have an informal poetry reading at the end of the month.
On the world wide web, I joined a few Facebook groups: Poets and Writers Coalition at SJSU (in which I was an alumni), Faces of Poetry, and Poets Corner. Recently, I joined a group on LinkedIn called Poetry Editors & Poets as well.
Friends and family have asked that I publish an e-book. That took me about 5 months after my paperback version was published, as you can see. Why? I just needed a break from looking at documents. In actuality, it probably took 3 full days to complete (1 day to research, and 2 days to adjust my document). How did I adjust my document? I removed all the page numbers, ensured that each page had a page break (which most did), changed all my poem titles to headings so that it would work with the Table of Contents, and tagged certain pages as bookmarks (ie Table of Contents, Beginning) so that the Kindle app would know to jump to that section. I had to save my Word doc as a webpage html file in order for the tagging to work.
One difficulty I had with the tagging was that even though I tagged the first poem as “beginning,” it kept jumping to the middle of the TOC when I was testing on the Kindle Previewer. I read in other online forums that that seemed to be a common problem. As an alternative, I changed the “beginning” tag to be at the Title Page. That worked fine, so I went on to focus on minor html tweaks, such as changing some areas to read “<br><br>” instead of “ ” so that the spacing would look better.
I tested on multiple devices using multiple sizes on the Kindle previewer. It was never perfect across all devices, but I decided it was good enough. I published the Kindle version on March 4, 2015. At this moment in time, I did not enroll my book in KDP Select (which would be a good opportunity to increase awareness) simply because I have too many poems floating around on my blog and other sites. KDP requires that your book can only be available in digital format via Kindle for 90 days. However, I do plan to consider it for the future.
So… that is my publishing story. It was definitely 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I hope that this has provided you some insight into the publishing world and given you some advice on what to do and what not to do based on my experiences. If you have any advice to share with me or my readers, please leave a comment. I greatly appreciate it =)