Winter Holidays in the City of Pearls

I made a book.

There are a couple of reasons I’m particularly proud of Writers on the Avenue’s holiday anthology, Winter Holidays in the City of Pearls. For one, I built this book from scratch, from the ground up.

On a walk this summer I came up with the idea to make a WOTA book as a fundraiser. For once I was able to think ahead and suspected that taking advantage of holiday gift-giving might be a good marketing strategy. (After all, retailers do it all the time.)

So I talked it over with the group and got their approval, sent out a call for submissions, looked into the publishing process, and formed an editorial board. We read and selected the pieces to include; I contacted contributors and got their signatures on the publication agreement as well as their revised works; and then I set out building the book.

I admit: I took the easy route. I used CreateSpace through Amazon, as have 300,000 other people this year alone who have also published a book.

It’s seductively easy. As we know, graphic design is not my strong suit, but CreateSpace will design a cover for you for free. I used the original artwork from one of the group members, Judy Haskins, and that was that. CreateSpace will assign you an ISBN so you don’t have to pay $250 for one through Bowker—also a deal if you’re a nonprofit. CreateSpace has content templates you can download and basically fill in the puzzle pieces. The previewer tool is extremely handy and you can go back and upload again and again until you’ve caught all the mistakes.

I have three pieces of advice.

  1. Get a print galley. Even though I looked at the thing half a dozen times online, when I actually had it in my hand, I spotted all sorts of mistakes in the text, as well as errors in formatting. It delays your production, but you end up making a better book.
  2. If you have a specific date in mind for production and delivery—for instance, say you want to sell a holiday anthology at your town’s major downtown holiday event—give Amazon a three-week window for printing and shipping. I didn’t allow enough time (or account for the Thanksgiving holiday). The Muscatine Holiday Stroll was on Friday, 12/2; the books arrived on Monday, 12/5. Day late and a dollar short, as my dad would say.
  3. If you choose to release a Kindle version of the book, as we did, don’t rely on the automatic converter, especially if you have custom formatting. When I previewed the conversion I saw several things I wanted to fix, so I set the ebook status to “pre-order.” This expired without my knowing; the automatic Kindle version became available, formatting errors and all; readers bought, read, and helpfully mentioned the numerous formatting errors in the reviews (as they rightfully should). Eventually I got around to making a correctly formatted Kindle edition and uploading that, but I should have done it earlier, and coordinated the release. Learn from me!

I would also advise having a marketing plan in place BEFORE the book arrives on your doorstep. I had a hazy idea, but not a plan. Even after that fancy class I took with Jodie Toohey, Wordsy Woman, through the Midwest Writing Center.

The second reason I’m proud of the book is because my essay, “Christmas Lights,” was chosen for inclusion. This is a deeply personal essay, on a subject I’ve never shared with many people, much less the world at large. It’s terrifying and cathartic at the same time. I really do love the personal essay form.

And I love this book.

And I love publishing. I’ve always wanted to be a publisher of my own. I think it’s time to start making that dream happen.

Here’s to your dreams coming true! Happy holidays, all.

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My foray into publishing

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