The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing a Book

Questions to Ask Before Self Publishing

But first, the publishing news worth reading this week:

The Hilarious Art of Book Design (TED Talk by Chip Kidd, famed Knopf cover designer): Since we’re on the topic of book design and production this week, I thought it was worth resurrecting this classic (and truly hilarious) talk by Chip Kidd. Even if design isn’t your thing, you’ll get a kick out of Chip.

How Do I Write My Book and Build My Platform at the Same Time? (Chad R. Allen): “Many of us want to get our books into the world, but we also understand the power and importance of a significant platform. We understand that if we write a book without a platform, we will have difficulty reaching an audience. We not only want to write a book, we want some people to read it!”

Local Flavors: Cookbooks Spotlight Fall 2016 (Clare Swanson for Publisher’s Weekly): “From Iron Chef to MasterChef to Top Chef, there’s no shortage of national media attention for kitchen rock stars and those clamoring for the title. Food Network personalities, big-time bloggers, and now YouTubers continue to dominate the cookbook bestseller list. But cookbooks by regional chefs from across the country are also climbing the charts and winning awards along the way. We spoke with publishers about how they put hometown culinary heroes on the map.”

The Ultimate Literary Ten-Course Meal (Evan Hanczor for Lit Hub): “…we’re consistently amazed by the power—creative, nostalgic, emotional—of translating text into food. If you’ve never cooked and eaten a dish from a favorite book, do it. Nearly any great book has moments of food in it, not just because characters have to eat, but because our relationship with food exposes so much about our identities, cultures, time, and place. What author forsakes a tool that can explore all that?”

The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing

A few weeks ago I mentioned how Jarrett and I are notorious for taking on more than we should…but I haven’t even told you the half of it.

We decided—in the midst of planning every detail of a DIY wedding sans professional planner PLUS crazy busy work schedules—that we should write, photograph, edit, design, and print our own cookbook as a wedding favor.

Actually, it was Jarrett’s awful idea. (This is how marriage works, right? Blame your partner for all the bad ideas?)

But really, I’m the one who should have known better. I’ve walked dozens of cookbook authors through the publishing process, and I know it’s no stroll in the park. It’s more like a two-year slog up a mountain, with a full team to help you reach the peak of quality you have in mind.

But I (very stupidly) thought: Hey, it’s only 10 recipes. Only 32 pages. Only a bit of design work. We can do this. And it’s better than cheesy “Maria & Jarrett Forever” koozies.

Oh, boy, am I a sucker.

Creating a book is a tremendous amount of work, especially if you’re trying to hack it out on your own. No matter how many books you’ve read yourself (and in my case, edited or agented myself), you’ll still be surprised at the level of detail that goes into creating an exceptional book.

Although we survived the process, got it done, and—dare I say—honed our teamwork superpowers, it could have been a much smoother process if I had wrapped my head around a few important considerations before jumping into self-publishing a book.

So now I want to be sure you don’t make the same silly mistakes I did! Whether you’re contemplating a self-published novel, an ebook bonus giveaway, or a four-color print book, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself before you even think about Step #1 of the process.

And don’t worry–I’ll give you all a look at the cookbook, so you can judge for yourself! Scroll down to the bottom of this post to take a peek at our Eat, Drink, and Be Married cookbook.

I do want to say: I’m proud of the final book. I am glad we did it. It did serve its purpose of being a special and personal wedding favor for all the wonderful people who traveled from near and far for our wedding. And I do know it will be a keepsake in our home for many, many years. It’s a book that fully serves its purpose as a personal item, if not a commercial one.

So here are the 3 questions you should ask yourself before jumping headfirst into producing your own book:

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A 2-Minute Retreat for Writers

guided meditation for writers with anxiety

But first, the publishing stories worth reading this week:

6 Strategies for Getting Your Book Published (Chad R. Allen): This is a must-read post for nonfiction writers. Because it’s true: there is a very set, step-by-step formula for getting a book deal. That’s not to say the steps are easy, but if you stick with it and follow Chad’s advice, you will see agents and editors come a’knockin’!

20 Signs You’re the Biggest Book Nerd in Your Friend Group (Jen Harper on BarnesandNoble.com): “So you think you may be the biggest book nerd in your squad? We’re here to help you confirm it.” I have to say, none of these applied to me. I also have to say: that’s a complete and utter lie. I am guilty, guilty, guilty.

The Top 4 Secrets to Keep Book Sales High Post-Launch (Chad Cannon): “One of the biggest misbeliefs I see in the publishing world is that you can push a book into the marketplace with an awesome launch plan…and then just call it done. The reality? Marketing is never done.”

100 Must-Read Books About Books (Margaret Aldrich for Book Riot): If you love to read books about books (me, me, me!), you need this list. And if you’re fascinated by design and book covers, take a peek, too. Do you see how the cover and title for The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is so similar to the cover and title of the big bestseller in the category, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? THAT is how you signal to readers that if they liked that book, they’ll like this one, too. And it works. Broken Wheel was just added to my to-read list.

Everyone’s Getting Into Video. Should You? (Jane Friedman on Writer Unboxed): “Unless you’ve been garreted away working on the Great American Novel—and maybe you have!—you’ve probably noticed that video is becoming a big deal…As a writer, should you care? And if you’re interested, what’s next?”

A Two-Minute Retreat for Writers (& A Book Deal Announcement!)

meditation for writers and bloggers with anxiety

A writer’s life is filled with anxieties. Really, the life of anyone who puts their work out into the world is filled with anxieties. Will people like it? Is it any good? Will it succeed? Will it have impact? Should you shred it right now because, oh wow, this is terrible?

I’m a firm believer that 80% of the creative battle is won in the mind. I see it all the time—the most successful authors have fought those show-up-and-just-do-it battles early in their careers, and they’ve made peace with the fact that their work isn’t for everyone.

Even some of my sweetest, softest-hearted authors will laugh about how you can’t please everyone on the Internet. And if you can’t please the Internet masses, you sure as heck can’t please everyone in publishing.

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4 Ways to Work Through a Creative Block

How to get past writer's block

But first, the publishing news worth reading this week:

How to Grow an Amazing Fiction Readership (She’s Novel): “Whether you want to build a full-blown career as a novelist or just bring in a few extra bucks on the side, growing your readership is pivotal to making sales. In fact, selling your stories usually goes a bit like this: Publish a book. Tell your friends and family. Realize you actually have to market this thing. FREAK OUT.”

Calling All Foodie Freelancers: 20 Dining and Food Magazines to Pitch (Kristen Pope on The Write Life): “Don’t limit yourself strictly to ‘food’ magazines and publications. Many other publications, ranging from travel to regional magazines, include a food or dining section, and even more are open to food-related pitches, so keep an open mind when trying to place stories about the culinary world.”

9 Research-Backed Ways to Spark Your Creativity (Michael Hyatt): “Creativity is essential to leadership and business. But we don’t always feel very creative. And I know some people doubt they’re creative at all. The good news is that all of us can easily become more creative.”

5 Tips for Overcoming Marketing Writer’s Block (Chadwick Cannon): “I hear a great many authors tell me that they have these great ideas for how to market their book, but when it comes time to put those big ideas on paper in a streamlined and practical way, their minds freeze up. Or that they have strong thoughts on what their promo copy should say, but then can’t get started when they finally sit down to put it on paper.”

4 Ways to Work Through a Creative Block

We all get stuck sometimes. Last night I was sitting on the balcony with Jarrett and whining about not knowing what to write for a post. We had finally called it quits with work for the day, packed away the laptops, poured the wine, and were watching a thunderstorm roll in. But I was using these precious moments of leisure to complain about the work lying ahead of me the next day.

Isn’t that always how it is? We check one day of work off then immediately start to ruminate on the next day.

I’m convinced that tomorrow’s work is the private terror of the creative mind.

As soon as we hit our goals for the day, we start dreading tomorrow, when we’ll have to sit down and face that blank page again. And what we want, more than anything, is for it to go away. And if it can’t go away, then we sure as heck better be struck by a bolt of inspiration between now and then.

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Why You Need the 80/20 Rule if You Want to Grow Your Platform

the 80 20 rule 

We are creatures of habit, and we can so easily be caught up in our routines and systems. This is especially true for bloggers, who control their own schedules and have to face a whole slew of new challenges as they grow: how to build traffic, how to monetize, how to avoid burnout, how to resist the urge to give up. And as I wrote about a few weeks ago, one of the biggest mistakes bloggers can make is to spend too much time simply churning out content. If you’re just operating in survival mode five days a week, it becomes impossible to tackle the big-picture growth initiatives.

Which is why the most successful bloggers I’ve seen—the ones that built blogs with millions of pages views in just a couple of years—are the ones that understand the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is this: you should spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time finding ways to share it. Here’s why it works:

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