How to Self-Publish Your Book: The Musical

How to Self-Publish Your Book: The Musical

Many bloggers long to take their writing to the next level. We want to see our work published somewhere other than our own blogs. We aspire to get paid (actual money!) for our writing. Many of us dream about becoming published authors.

The world of self-publishing has opened a lot of doors to bloggers. It's by no means easy, but it is attainable if you have the right tools.

I learned a lot about self-publishing at the BlogHer '13 conference this year; in fact, it was the first time I ever seriously considered self-publishing. And just five months later, I have an actual book -- a book! -- to hold in my hands.

Stephanie and the Book

I didn't do it alone. My writing partner, Jessica Smock of School of Smock, and I co-founded the HerStories Project last winter. Our website began as a series of blog posts featuring guest essays about women's friendship. After a few months of rotating posts on each of our blogs, we created a brand new website devoted to our friendship essays. We were so inspired by these essays that we began to plan for an anthology.

We sought out other bloggers and writers and eventually wound up with a collection of 50 essays, including a foreword written by Scary Mommy. We hired a cover designer, a copyeditor, and through Create Space, we published our book. As of Monday, December 2nd, the book is now available for purchase!

It wasn't easy, but we did it. It was humbling, frustrating, and ultimately very gratifying. We learned some helpful tips and tools along the way.

To summarize:

1. Cover design is everything. This was stressed to us over and over. You do not want your cover to look self-published. I’m not sure what that means exactly — the “self-published look” — but it’s sort of like pornography, I guess; you know it when you see it. We researched a lot of design options, but never for a second considered doing it ourselves. As many of our online friends know, our cover design went through many iterations, driving our cover designer crazy, and it was hard to listen to critical feedback. Which leads me to our next lesson…

2. Get tons of outside opinions. When you’re self-publishing a book, even with a partner, it’s really easy to live inside your own little bubble. Getting outside help with editing is a no-brainer; that’s not optional at all. But you need others’ opinions about lots of other facets of your book. In addition to our cover design, we got outside feedback about our introduction, our title, our book’s organization, our marketing strategy… And we tried hard not to be thin-skinned.

3. Embrace learning new technology. If you want to try self-publishing, knowing Microsoft Word is probably not enough. It’s incredibly helpful to have an organizational tool for putting together your book and formatting it that’s much more sophisticated and versatile than Microsoft Word, particularly if you’re working with other authors. We used PressBooks, which I strongly recommend, particularly if you’re a blogger, since it uses the WordPress framework. PressBooks is a book publishing tool; you put in your content — in a way similar to adding blog posts — and choose a theme. Then PressBooks can export it automatically into formats suitable for paperback book and e-book creation.  And it’s free! At least until your book is ready to export and then you have to pay to remove the PressBooks watermark off your book. Alternatively, lots of other writers use Scrivener, another software tool for authors, and I tried that out and loved it too.

But in case you prefer to be serenaded and entertained, check out this video of me singing an "original" composition "The 12 Days of HerStories."

And in case you're interested in our anthology, here's the lowdown. From the back cover of the book:

Female friendship is an extremely rich and complex topic. The bonds of women’s friendship can be more intimate than marriage, and just as essential to emotional health. From the childhood friend who broke your heart to the college roommate who witnessed you at your highest and lowest, from the lost friendship that ended bitterly to the devoted companion who is still in your life, from the bond that was forged due to shared grief to the shaky connection born with new motherhood, all women have stories to tell about their friendships. The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship is a collection of essays from 50 women writers encompassing tales from the sandbox to the inbox.

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