Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Writing The Book….
It’s January of 2018 and a cardboard box arrives at the post office in the small little town on the small little island I was living on. My hands are shaking as I attempt to open the package with a butter knife. The blazing sun warms my back as though enveloping me in a hug of celebration. My god sister and friend sat around the outdoor table, watching me in anticipation. I pulled the book out of the box and burst into tears. It smelled like new pages and possibilities. There it was. The cover. My name. Even the bar code on the back made me emotional as it signified that this was real. Several months ago, these poems were merely a part of my journal. I had gone from sharing pieces of my heart in short excerpts on Instagram to writing a proper book. It was equal parts terrifying and liberating. Within a week of its release, the book hit #1 in female poetry in Amazon and became a best-seller.
I believe that we are all writers, it is just whether we put pen to paper. If you’re considering writing a book, don’t wait for anyone else’s permission. Don’t wait for a certification to call yourself a writer. We are ever evolving creatures and can always improve our craft, but more important than following the rules of writing is having something honest to say. If your words are honest and from the soul, then the world will benefit from reading them. Writing is an inside job. These are some of the questions I ask myself before I begin a project.
Why am I writing this?
What is my intention?
Who am I writing this for?
Is the work honest and true for me?
Before we start, I’ll address some of the most common fears that tend to come up.
What can I write that hasn’t been written?
Nothing is original. There is an incredible book that speaks to this called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Every love story is a spin-off of Shakespeare, and I’m sure Shakespeare got his plays from somewhere else before that. So just stay in your lane, focus on what makes your work true and original for you, and don’t pay attention to what anyone else is doing.
Who am I to write a book? What if it doesn’t do well? What if people don’t like it?
Who are you not to? We’re on a spinning blue ball in the middle of the Milky Way, which is just one of an infinite amount of galaxies. The only true failure would be not trying at all. What’s the worst that can happen? We learn from life the most when it doesn’t work out, and when it does it means we got out of the way of our own creative genius. You are not writing this for the world. This is not about their approval. If everyone approves of you, then you probably don’t stand for anything anyways. So, let’s get your book published!
I first chose to publish my poetry collection, “Explorations of a Cosmic Soul,” on the platform CreateSpace. I recommend any author looking to release their first book highly consider self-publishing. This way you maintain full creative control. The writing, the cover, the price, the art, the font…it is all up to you. Amazon has completely changed the book industry (unfortunately dissolving the majority of bookstores), and many writers are choosing to self-publish over traditional publishing houses.
Traditional publishing houses come with their own benefits, but you often need a book agent before they will even consider looking at your manuscript. You can always re-release the book through a publishing house afterwards as well if you change your mind (this is what Rupi Kaur did with Milk and Honey). I ended up re-releasing my book through Spirit Daughter as the publisher, Jill Wintersteen, wrote the forward for my book.
The majority of books are bought online now whether it’s through Amazon, Kindle, or Audible. All of these platforms take anywhere from 40-65% of royalties, however this is still more than you would make from a traditional publisher.
If you choose to upload your book to CreateSpace, make sure you give yourself at least a month to correct any mistakes from the proof before you launch. I would look at several different formats for books that are similar to yours whether it’s poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. See how the author does everything from the copyrights, dedication, forward, chapters, and acknowledgments. Compare the different formats in detail and then decide how you want yours to look.
A book is an experience. You are letting people into the world of your imagination. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of what you think will sell well. Books lose their magic when we put marketing before what is true to the work. Write the book you would want to read. Design the cover you would want to see. We are visual creatures. Think about what draws you to a book. From the writing itself, to the design of the cover, to the way it feels and even smells. In the end, it’s not about how the world sees it, it is about how you see it. Create something you are proud of in every way because this will be a part of you for the rest of your life. Nothing compares to the feeling of when you hold your first book in your palms.
If you have artistic capabilities, I highly recommend doing the art for your book yourself. People appreciate this, and more of your energy will have gone into it. However, there are many talented artists on Instagram and Pinterest you could hire to make the cover art. Describe your vision in as much detail so the artist can bring your dream to life. I used artist Becca Reitz for my book cover. I called her and explained how I wrote the poetry as a reminder to maintain a cosmic perspective through our attempt to answer the unanswerable questions of who we are, why we’re here, and what our purpose is. On her first try she managed to capture a cover that honored the poetry.
Whether you self-publish or traditionally publish, no one will believe in your book more than you. In the end, most of the marketing is up to you. The reality of the book industry is that it is an industry. It can be an odd paradox to share your heart while selling it too, but when you don’t give your gifts fully to the world you deprive it of your uniqueness.
Luckily, we are living in an incredible age of social media marketing. Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all incredible platforms for sharing. You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars in marketing to PR companies. You can create beautiful video trailers for your book, use Facebook Advertising, send it to all your friends, reach out to people you think would truly enjoy it. Podcasts are also the new book tours. Write a list of at least 100 podcasts, reach out to all of them and do as many interviews as you can. Get it on blogs. Get it in magazines. Get your story out there.
Reviews are also essential in getting your book on the best-seller list. It is nice to offer people something in exchange for a review. I offered an original poem or a guided meditation to people on my email list in exchange for a review.
I also suggest reaching out to the authors you most admire. You would be surprised at the amount of people who will respond. Find people who have succeeded in the closest way possible to what you want to do and ask them how they did it. It is in our nature to pass along wisdom and help lift each other up. Honest feedback is essential to our growth.
Remember your WHY for writing your book. I used poetry as a form of healing, as a way to honor my creative expression and my voice no matter how it was received. My intention was much bigger than me and my fears. Writing is a passport to living in the world of the imagination! This is such a fun process, try to fall in love with the journey itself and find the joy in each step.
If you want to submit your artwork to a safe group of artists before releasing it into the world, I created a free Facebook group called Soul Stories of artists supporting other artists. Join Here.