Adventures in Publishing – 9 Lessons I’ve Learned as an Author

keep-calm-epic-adventure-aheadSo you want to write a book. Go ahead and start, writing is the easy part. You’re probably already writing letters, emails, blog posts and various documents for work or pleasure. Commence writing your book. You don’t need an outline and you don’t need it to be perfect. Just begin. All that’s required is your time and effort.

Once you’ve got something to show, show it! Find a friend or colleague to review your work. Ask them to give you feedback, and listen to what they tell you. Honestly this is much harder than it sounds. The vast majority of comments will sound overly harsh and critical. Even the most helpful ideas, delivered with love and caring, will require you to revise and extend (or worse, cut) writing you’ve labored over. That’s painful too.

Lesson 1:  Accept the feedback and do the work.

Sooner or later, after a few rounds of feedback and revision, you will have a manuscript that’s pretty good. Time to turn it into a real, published book and maybe an e-book. Let the adventure begin!

When I got to that point with my first manuscript on personal health, I followed the traditional route, writing a proposal and seeking an agent and publisher. It was a big investment of time and energy for zero results. A couple of close friends with media expertise (you know who you are) advised self-publishing, but I was in search of “Credibility” and I wanted to avoid any additional personal work. I was a little lazy, or perhaps (more charitably) tired by then.

Then God intervened. A friend had published a book with LaChance Publishing, a small firm out of New York City. I asked her for an introduction, and she forwarded my manuscript directly to the President and Editor. They liked it! After a few telephone calls, the deal was done. Woo Hoo! I had a real publisher! Credibility! No more work on my part!

Naturally, it wasn’t that simple. The editorial staff gave feedback and another revision was required. That said, criticism is a lot less painful when you know a finished book is just on the other side or your response. Additionally when the book, titled More Health, Less Care, was released, I still needed to devote many hours to promoting it. Despite my great expectations, my hard work, and my newfound “Credibility,” the end results were disappointing (to me at least).

Lesson 2:  The media business is not a linear field; results are not proportionate to effort.

Lesson 3:  Traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee success.

But hope never dies, and so I began to write another book (which eventually became The Love Fight) with Dr. Tony Ferretti. We followed a writing and review process as before, but with two of us it was a little more complicated and emotionally challenging. We shared a lot of potentially irritating feedback with each other along the way – See Lesson 1. I’m happy to say that we followed our own advice in communicating and resolving conflicts to produce a publishable manuscript. Let the second adventure begin!

My thinking was, “Certainly it will be easier to get a publisher now. After all, I’ve already published a book. I’ve got Credibility.” But it was not to be. After many letters, proposals, a rejection by my prior publisher, and months had gone by, we decided to self-publish. So we formed an LLC, and hired a “book shepherd” firm to coordinate the publishing and marketing process. (Book shepherds are like general contractors who guide and manage the various subcontractors in the book “construction project.”) It went fine, but cost more than we liked, and in the end, we still had to do a lot related to design, production, and especially marketing.

Lesson 4:  There is no avoiding the work.

Also, the end results in terms of sales were disappointing to us both. See Lesson 2.

But you never know what’s coming. Some time later, the head of Florida Hospital Publishing read the new book and liked it! A deal was done. Woo Hoo! We’ve got more Credibility! But, you guessed it, a great deal of “interesting” editorial feedback was also given and Tony and I were required to extensively revise to the manuscript. It wasn’t easy. It helped that we could both appreciate that the changes did make for a much better book, and Credibility was waiting on the other side.

Lesson 5:  There is no substitute for feedback, criticism and professional editing.

UnknownThe finished work, The Love Fight, was released in late 2014 and it’s getting some good reviews. Naturally, Tony and I wish it were a best seller. Once again we’ve made great efforts to promote it and we are a little disappointed (but still hopeful) at the sales figures to date. See Lessons 2, 3, and 4.

Just when I was getting comfortable having two books (and therefore twice the Credibility), LaChance Publishing went out of business, meaning More Health, Less Care was now out of print. Bummer.

Lesson 6:  Nothing is forever. Be ready for change.

What to do? It hurts to think that after all that time and toil the book is unavailable. And, it is (in my opinion) a good and helpful book. Considering my options, reflecting on prior experiences and lessons learned, and with a little advice from a friend, I decided, semi-reluctantly, to self publish through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.

MHLC-COVER 2That turned out to be a lot easier than I expected and I’m happy to say that More Health, Less Care is back in stock on Amazon in print! (and hopefully an electronic version is coming very soon) I did use a few outside sources to help me but I managed the process myself.  Yes, I had to learn a few things, but it really wasn’t that hard.  You might even call it simple.

Lesson 7:  Self-publishing really is pretty simple.

As I write this, no copies have sold yet, and there are no reviews on Amazon for the new release. Uh oh, where is my credibility? Vanished apparently – with the exit of LaChance. Yet it’s same book as it was then. And truthfully, the concepts were well expressed in my manuscript even before LaChance got involved. They helped make a better product, but the substance was there beforehand. Rereading it again while working to get it back in print, it impresses me. I like it! It is a good book!

Lesson 8:  Credibility is an inside job.

Now I’m thinking about writing a third book. Perhaps more than thinking about it. Actually, I’m trying not to be obsessed with it, but I have a touch of OCD in my personality. After my prior experiences I almost wish that I didn’t want to write another one, but facing facts, there’s probably a book inside of me that’s going to have to come out.

Yes it will be a lot of hard work. It will take time, energy and humility. I’ll have to listen to and respond to criticism. Eventually hiring my own editor and book designer, I’ll self publish through the available platforms. Undoubtedly marketing will be hard and sales disappointing, but you never know. Best-sellers sometimes come out of nowhere. See Lesson 2.

Regardless, it will be a quality book and I will be happy with it.

Lesson 9:  Write and publish to please yourself!

Let the third adventure begin!

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PS – If you’ve read More Health, Less Care before and are willing to write a review for the new Amazon listing, I would greatly appreciate it. Not that I need credibility, but…