I’m less than a month out from submitting my next manuscript in to my publisher and I’ve been sharing some of the journey with my social media followers as I go. Each time I post about the process it brings up a few questions. I answered some of these questions in May last year but since then I’ve had a lot more people reach out to ask some interesting q’s. It’s a road I’d obviously never navigated before and there were a couple of bumps along the way and I didn’t really know who to turn to for advice… So here’s a summary of the most frequently asked questions I get and hopefully if you’re thinking of writing your own book one day or you’re just curious to know about the process this helps. If you have any more questions please leave a comment and I’ll answer in the comments 🙂
BOOK PUBLISHING 101
Q: What’s the difference between self published and working with a publisher?
A: Self Published means you take responsibility for the entire book publishing process. You foot the bill for everything from paper choice through to paying a distributor to send the books out to retailers. Whereas when you work with a publisher they look after that entire process on your behalf, you just submit the manuscript and images and then their team takes over the designing process and you’re brought in along the way when key decisions need to be made.
There are pros and cons to each of these. I obviously am published with Hardie Grant Books in Melbourne so can only really answer from the publisher side of the fence but I have a couple of friends who opted for self-published and loved the process so much they’d never work with a publisher so you need to weigh up what works for you. If you have the time and money to research how to sell the book through different distribution channels, market and sell the book and work on things like fonts, graphics and paper choice then self publishing allows you much greater control over the whole process. Working with a publisher can mean you are handing over a lot of the creative control to someone else as ultimately they get the final say on most elements along the way. You want to ensure you’ve communicated your brand/purpose very clearly to them so that the finished product is one you are proud to promote.
Q: How do you pitch a book to a publisher?
A: I was lucky enough to have been approached initially to write the book so I never went through the pitching phase to get my foot in the door. However, when my publisher asked me to put together some ideas for book number two I drafted up a little presentation with the following information on slides:
- Book synopsis – what the book is going to be about
- Target Market – who I expect will want to buy and read the book, including some key stats about them.
- Topics Covered – what will you be writing about specifically? List your table of contents here if you’ve got it.
Q: Is it hard to write a book?
A: Yes and no. I don’t find it a particularly difficult process to write and that may not be the case for a lot of people. For me the hardest thing is finding solid chunks of time to sit and write. I can’t focus on writing during the working week. I have too many distractions like emails, client meetings, appointments with builders to pick out bathroom tiles, strategy meetings, photoshoots and styling jobs so I try to find chunks of time like weekends, long weekends or Christmas holidays to tackle large portions of the book writing process. I also find I forget what I’ve written when I come back to it months later so I waste time re-reading what I’ve already written.
I’ve also always said that if you’re writing about a topic you know back to front it’s a lot easier to write about it than a topic you aren’t as familiar with. It surprises me every time I sit down to write a book how much I actually know about decorating but hadn’t stopped to think about it.
Q: Where do you start?
A: Good question. My first book HOME was based on decorating workshops I was teaching across Australia so I had a loose format to work to already before I started and it was just a matter of sitting down and working out where each section should go and then filling in the blanks under each heading. For book two, it’s been much more fluid and I’ve found myself jumping around from chapter to chapter as I go. I always start by fleshing out the table of contents and go topic by topic as I write.
Q: What happens over the span of the 12-18 months it takes from writing to it being on bookshelves?
A: LOTS! I first wrote the concept for book number two “Keeping House” in about August 2017. I signed the contract with my publisher by November 2017 and have until May 2018 to write the manuscript. When that’s been submitted to the publisher I get started working with my editor and creative team to work out all the fun details like illustration designs, front cover design, chapter inserts and so much more. Since Keeping House is my second book we have already established a few things with the first book so less decisions will need to be made in terms of graphics and fonts but we are going for quite a different look and feel with this one so I expect it will result in a really fun collaboration between myself and the Hardie Grant team.
Q: How many words do you have to write?
A: Most publishers will give you a word count but it’s not always adhered to. With a topic like decorating it’s less about quantity and more about quality, especially when there are also a lot of illustrations to be worked into the book as well and you aren’t just relying on the text to tell the story (so to speak!)
Hopefully that’s filled in a few of the book publishing gaps for those of you who are interested in one day writing your own book or have already started on the path!