Birthing a Book: The A-Z guide

I wanted to write something about how I got to this point with the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide but I feared a 10,000 word essay coming on so decided to break it down a bit into more easily digestible chunks. Hence the A-Z. As for the birthing bit, well,  there have definitely been times when it has felt a bit like birth. The research (birth preparation), the writing (labour), the editing and proof-reading (transition), the launch (birth)….then there was that rosy glow of the first few days of the post-natal period, where I sat and stared lovingly at my baby book. And now I am in that slightly bewildering stage where I am not sure what happens next, although I have to be honest I am getting more sleep than I did after the birth of both my babies!

So anyway back to the task in hand: The A-Z of how I produced the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

A is for Amazon. Love it or hate it, it’s what it is. The only best way to sell your books unless you happen to get a deal with one of the big publishers who will place you into stores like Waterstones and WH Smith. Which to be honest is not that likely these days. I am currently struggling to pursuade Amazon to take the Survival Guide OUT of the photography section and put it IN to the living abroad section – honestly, you would think they didn’t want to take quite a large proportion of my profits by selling my books…..I think it will be a love/hate relationship between me and Amazon.

B is for Bubblecow, which is the company I used to edit my book. I really enjoyed working with them and Gary, my editor, gave me some fantastic feedback. He really helped turn it into a proper guide, it’s amazing what a new pair of eyes will see.

C is for Catherine Ryan Howard. Catherine wrote a book called Self Printed, which I recommend highly for anyone thinking of going down the self-publishing route. It not only helped me with things like formatting and marketing, she also held my hand, figuratively speaking, as I set up this blog. She also has an excellent blog, covering all things publishing. What I really love about Catherine is her casual, friendly style – it really resonated with me as I found it so much easier navigating the choppy waters of self-publishing with her words in my ear. C is also for Createspace, which is where you basically create the paperback version of your book (they are a subsidary of Amazon). I found the process pretty simple and userfriendly, so thumbs-up there 🙂

D is for Design for Writers. These were the people who designed my book cover and I can’t recommend them highly enough! I want to write a separate blog post at some point about the process I went through with them (and I will be doing an interview for their site) so I won’t go on too much. But it was like magic, how they knew what I wanted even before I did. I absolutely love my final cover design.

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E is for Editing. “Editing might be a bloody trade, but knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.” –  Blake Morrison. “The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway. “For I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me.” – Winnie the Pooh

F is for Facebook. Just like Amazon, Facebook is one of those organisations that you have to work with in this game, even if you don’t like it. Personally I do like Facebook – but from a “business” point of view it’s become very tricky. It used to be you put your information on FB, people liked your page and then they saw your posts. Now, the algorithms have changed and they will only see your posts if they have recently liked your page (or something). So you need to pay to boost your post. Which is okay as far as it goes, but don’t try and pay for an ad as you’ll end up with people on click farms liking you (even if you are not the one paying the clickers – they also click on random sites to try and disguise the places they are being paid to like) – and if you want to know what a click farm is I suggest you read this.

G is for grit. And determination. Had you asked me two or three years ago whether I would ever get this damn book finished, I wouldn’t have been too sure. But I reached a certain stage where I had told enough people about it that I was too embarrassed not to carry on. There were times, lots and lots of times, where I felt like giving up as I just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. But inevitably there would be a break-through of one sort of another and I would carry on. Encouragement also helped. If you have any writer friends do tell them to keep going and that they are doing a great job. Just like what I used to tell dads to do when their partners were in labour when I taught antenatal classes!

H is for helpers. This is another word for my contributors, but I already had two things under C so putting them here instead. Over the course of writing the book, I had input from nearly 80 people (men and women, all expat partners or former expat partners) with their tips, advice, views, stories and anecdotes. I couldn’t have written the book without them. Sometimes it was hard going trying to get information from them, but other times they were so generous with their advice. As time went on it became easier, as I got involved in more and more expat groups and forums. The last chapter I wrote was one on relationships and I was able to simply put up a request on this blog and was flooded with replies! So if you were one of those who helped – THANK YOU.

I is for Idea. I had the original idea for the book when I was living in St Lucia and I realised how much harder it is to move and live overseas without the sort of help we were used to getting from our employers (the Foreign Office, the  British High Commission etc). Nowadays, more and more people are being posted or going to live overseas and the support for so many of them just isn’t there. Whilst I don’t think for a minute that this book will solve all the problems, I hope it is at least a small step in the right direction.

J is for juggling. Anyone who is a writer, unless they are already well established, will know this one. Writing is unlikely to pay the bills. It also doesn’t do the shopping, pick the children up from school or fold the washing. Yes it’s a fantastic, flexible, work-from-home job. But unless you are in a very lucky position, it’s not one that you are likely to be able to do all day, every day. I have juggled writing this book alongside training to be an antenatal teacher, teaching, working in two other part-time jobs, looking after two children and running a household. Let’s just say things got a lot easier once the girls were both at school full time.

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K is for Kindle. Because my audience was always going to be a global one, I knew I wanted a Kindle version of the book. It wasn’t difficult, I just paid the nice man at Lighthouse24 (see below) to format it for me and off I went. So far, sales of the Kindle version are out-ranking those of the paperback by about 2:1. It will be interesting to see if this continues.

L is for is for Lighthouse24. Formatting was the absolute BANE of my life. This was probably the part of the whole process I hated the most . It just used the wrong side of my brain. Luckily I found the very nice Doug at Lighthouse24  to help me. Seriously, for the amount it costs me (ie not too much compared to the whole process!) it was money very well spent. It meant I was able to concentrate on the bits I can do (the writing, the marketing) while they sorted out preparing my manuscript for both paperback and ebook editions.

M is for marketing. This is so important. It’s worth thinking about your maketing even before you start to write. Don’t think it’s something you can put off until you’ve finished the book. Although you do need to get the balance right – I am really glad I didn’t start this blog until towards the end of the book production process as I find it very time-consuming and distracting (mostly because I love it!). But you need somewhere to get your voice heard, you need to network and make links and find people who will review you and share you and talk about you. Marketing strategies will be different dependent on your genre – I have really plugged the social media route as I think that is the best way to reach my audience. But I also have articles going out in various magazines in the coming months, am currently waiting on a call from our local newspaper and am intent on writing guest posts and blogs as much as possible. I attended at Marketing Masterclass in London for how to market your self-published book, which I found useful. I would recommend something similar, or at least reading up on marketing as much as possible, if this isn’t something you know much about. You can’t just write a book, upload it to Amazon and then expect people to buy it if they don’t know it’s there….

N is for No-Going-Back. This is a very personal one for me, but once I had told people I was writing the book, pride stopped me from giving up. I hate failing at anything and once I started, I knew I had to finish.

O is for opinions. These matter. Everyone keeps asking me if I am over the moon about finally publishing the book -the truthful answer is,  not yet. No, I will only be happy once I know people like it. Or at least SOME people like it. There is nothing worse than silence…

P is for proof-reader. Another very important part of the publishing process. It’s tempting to skip the proof-reader, but so many independently-published books these days are rushed out, it doesn’t give self-publishing a good name. Make it as professional as you can. I used Charlotte Gledson, who was efficient, friendly and encouraging.

Q is for….what is Q for? It could be for quiet as that’s always handy when you need to write. Find somewhere that is your writing place, a desk, room, corner – somewhere that is just for you and your writing. Or it could be for questions, which I certainly asked a lot of.

R is for Retreats for You. One of the places I did a huge amount of my writing was at a writer’s retreat in Devon. Run by the lovely Deborah Dooley, Retreats for You was absolutely perfect for my needs. I am not going to say much about it here because I intend to do a full review at a future date; but needless to say, going somewhere like RfY where you can just write and write and write is invaluable. R is also for reviews. As I type this there are still none on either the Amazon.co.uk or the Amazon.com sites. It’s horrid having to ask people to leave a review but apparently this is one of the hardest things to get people to do – but it’s really important to get your book noticed and give it authenticity. Hopefully I will get one or two eventually…

S is for submissions. In the early part of this book’s life (early first-stage of labour), I did try submitting it to a few publishers. Needless to say I didn’t get anywhere. I did get some lovely responses, which I did find encouraging. But this book was never going to be commercial enough for traditional publishers. And to be honest once I had been on my marketing course, I realised I would still probably be doing most of the work and getting less of the profit if I was traditionally-published. I knew that self-publishing was the right route for me. S is also for Survey Monkey, which is a great tool for getting answers to your questions. I found people like to respond far more to surveys than they do to straight-forward questions. I don’t know why! Finally, S is for Sales Ranking. A fascinating tool within the Amazon author pages, you can find out exactly how your book is doing compared to all the other books on Amazon. At one point last night I was selling at number 2,103 in the UK (out of more than 6,000,000 books)! You can also find out how you are doing within your section. Given that I am still in totally the wrong section on Amazon.co.uk it’s pretty interesting that I am number 3 in the Digital Photography – Intermediate and Advanced section (although only number 5 in the beginners section).

T is for The End. It was hard, really hard, finally deciding I was done. I could have kept writing, adding and fiddling for ever. To be honest, there was so much more I could have put in. But I had to stop somewhere. At some point I may do a second edition if I think there is enough new material to justify it. Every day I read more expat blogs, articles and posts and think – yes, I should have included that. It’s very frustrating.

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U is for underestimation – of both time and costs. In particular, I have found the preparation of the manuscript from finishing the first draft to have taken a lot more time than I expected. Maybe because it was the first time I have done this – but don’t set your heart on publishing on a certain day or even in a certain month. Best to keep it vague – right up until the last moment! Costs, too, will almost undoubtedly be higher than you first anticipated. Set a price and double it, then be grateful if you come in under your estimation….

V is for validation. It was very important for me to have some positive feedback before I published. Luckily I got this from my editor, who told me he loved it. But now I am waiting for validation from people who either don’t know me or haven’t been paid by me. It’s far more important to me that people like what I write than that I get paid for what I write….

W is for WordPress! This blog has been fantastic. I really love the people I have met through blogging here, you feel like my buddies. I was “out there” a bit this week in the unknown territory of social media and I really wanted to be back here on my blog. It feels very supportive.

X is for eXcitement! There has been some – although there is also a bit of an anticlimaX after publication. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint!

Y is for YES I am done can I have a holiday now…..

Z is for ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……

Wow sorry that was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Anyone who has read to the end deserves a medal! But if you are a writer and in particular if you have independently published, I would love to know if you have anything to add to my mega-list.

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29 thoughts on “Birthing a Book: The A-Z guide

  1. Clara I wish you well in this endeavor!!! I have read many of your blog posts about this subject and I don’t know how you get into this type of market but Expats are not your only market-there are so many families who have to follow the job-not always overseas but definitely they need to pick up and start over many times and your book does a great job of addressing that issue. Good Luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – it’s always going to be a slog marketing any book. In a way I am lucky as I have a fairly defined market. However, it’s a lot easier to reach people who are already expats than expats-to-be, but those who are already there might not feel the need for this book! So I think you are right – I need to market it “generally” as well as to a specific audience.

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  2. Congratulations Clara on publishing your book, just bought it and downloaded to my kindle. (Only wish you had written it two years ago when we first moved to Johannesburg!) I really hope sales take off for you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Clara, I am in the process of self-publishing my first book as well (a guide for pro athletes that are moving abroad- talk about a niche), and this was very helpful. I could relate to many things you mentioned and am guessing I will experience the other ones soon (not meeting my deadline, yikes!). Thanks for sharing so honestly. (PS: I found this site through the WSJ Expat FB group, since I am sure you always wonder where people stumble upon you, I do at least)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow Susan what an interesting topic! Sounds like there could be some crossover with my book if they bring their partner! Thank you for your feedback (and letting me know where you found me!). Good luck with getting the book finished – you CAN do it! I’d love to hear how you get on, I’ll follow you on Twitter but do you have a blog?

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  4. Reblogged this on TinyExpats and commented:
    Here’s a great list of useful tips for those of you, who are thinking about writing and publishing a book. And expats – definitely check out this blog and the book, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, you will surely find it interesting and helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Clara for visiting and following my blog it has led me too yours which is pretty amazing and I wish you luck with the marketing of your book maybe you would like to be a guest blogger on my blog and promote your book. Good Luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t think of anything to add, but just wanted to say how amazed I am to discover this list only now, even though I’ve been reading your blog. And more amazed to see you make the same recommendation for Catherine Ryan Howard and Self-Printed – did I prod you to get that book or did you independently get it? I have been shouting her name from the rooftops! Oh, and I have also written an A-Z Guide (great minds think alike, right?), although mine is not as witty as yours in terms of the alphabet. But mine was also so long that I felt I had to offer a reward to people who got to the very end! See here: https://evamelusinethieme.com/2016/03/16/publishing-and-selling-your-book-from-a-to-almost-z/

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: A is for Amazon… – Eva Melusine Thieme

  8. Pingback: What Becoming a Writer Has to Do with Watching Bad Moms – Eva Melusine Thieme

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