What’s the first decision you need to make when you decide to write a book?
Writing can feel like the first step but there are a lot of early decisions to make. Considering how you’ll publish, who you need to work with, and what your marketing strategy looks like can affect how you write and your timeline.
As with anything, there is no right or wrong way to create a book. There are just a lot of options.
Here’s a look at some of the major decisions we’ve made so far and the research that informed them:
Deciding to self-publish
This was one of the biggest decisions we had to make upfront. How we published the book would influence who we worked with, our budget, and our timeline.
We spoke with different people in our community who have written and published books in the past to get an understanding of the pros and cons of each option. We also had a few conversations with publishers, thanks to connections from the Women Talk Design community, and it was helpful to learn from them about their process and what they look for.
When it comes to publishing, there is a balance between ease, control, and cost.
Using a traditional publisher could be easier–they have teams of people who know the ins and outs of publishing and will be able to handle most of the process in-house. It minimizes the number of vendors and service-providers you need to manage directly. That ease can mean compromising some of your control though. Full-service publishers can also come at a high premium.
Self-publishing puts all of the control in your own hands. It also puts all of the responsibility on you. You need to assemble the full team yourself–editors, designers, lawyers, and more. This means you can work with exactly who you’d like to work with and make sure everything is the way you want it. While it’s more work, it also gives you more levers to pull when trying to stay on budget.
For our book, we decided to self-publish for a couple of reasons.
First, we wanted to show you, our community, that it’s possible. When talking to our speakers about speaking and writing, “just start” is common advice. When you feel like you have something to say and you don’t want to wait for another person to give you permission to say it, self-publishing is a great option.
Another reason is that we wanted to build the right team of people for our book. It’s a different type of book, bringing together multiple contributors, and we decided the best way to make sure our team was representative of our community was to assemble it ourselves.
If you’re looking for information on publishing, you can start with some of our event recaps:
- Find Your Audience, Find Your Publisher, Write Your Book with Margot Bloomstein
- Self-Publishing Stories with Kat Vellos and Tutti Taygerly
- Our Speaker Stories author series, featuring Dr. Marisa G. Franco, Abby Covert, and Sameera Kapila.
Setting the budget
Another important decision we had to make before launching our Kickstarter was what the budget for the book would be. This required research into all of the different moving pieces that come with writing a book.
When you publish a book, it’s not just about the content itself. The writing needs to be edited, the pages and cover need to be designed, the book needs to be printed and bound, and it all eventually needs to ship to buyers. You have to know how you’re going to market and distribute the book. You may need to talk to lawyers about contracts (especially when working with multiple contributors).
The budget for each of those pieces also can vary and you can choose options at higher or lower price points.
We ultimately set our budget at $50,000. We want to acknowledge that this is *a lot* of money for publishing a book. With all of the moving pieces of the book, we wanted to make sure we had extra budget for additional editing, designing special elements, and paying our contributors. We also needed to budget for Kickstarter rewards and operational expenses. Finally, we knew that we needed to bring others into our process early and didn’t want to wait to pay them fairly.
If you want to read more about what went into our budget decision, we dug into some of the details on the Kickstarter page.
Learning how to create a book
Both of the previous decisions were informed by the research we did into what it takes to create and sell a book.
Thanks to all of the speakers in our community who have written books and shared their insight into the process over the years, we weren’t starting from square one.
Our friends at A Book Apart were kind enough to talk us through some of the details and provide examples of the information they need from authors. There were questions on who the book was for, what we wanted them to learn from it, and how our book would differ from others on the shelves. Thinking through these helped us choose a direction when committing on other decisions, like what rewards we wanted and how we would market the Kickstarter.
We also invested in a course from Kat Vellos, another Women Talk Design speaker and community member, called Designer-to-Author. This was another invaluable resource. It covered everything about creating a book–from idea generation and writing the book, to publishing and marketing it.
Finally, we spoke with editors, designers, and lawyers before even launching the Kickstarter to get an idea of what they would need from us, the decisions they’d be involved in, the timeline, and the costs.
Creating a book takes a long time and a lot can change between when you start and when you publish. While you don’t need everything set in stone to begin, it helps to take a look at the entire process, end to end, and build a tentative plan across months, quarters, and even years. We recommend doing as much research as possible and getting in touch with potential vendors and service providers.
Here are a few more resources to learn about what goes into creating a book:
- A Book Apart CEO, Katel LeDu, and Editor in Chief, Lisa Maria-Marquis, have previously spoken to us about their speaking and writing as part of our Speaker Stories series.
- Katel and Lisa Maria also have published a book called You Should Write a Book.
- Alison Anthoine, Esp., the lawyer we consulted for our book, joined us for our Demystifying Contracts discussion.
Throughout the entire process, it’s been incredibly helpful to learn from others and hear how they approach their own books.
Learning the different ways people in our community approach writing, editing, publishing, and selling has served to reinforce what we’ve always said: there is no one right way to do things, whether it’s speaking or writing a book. We hope that sharing our experiences helps you on your own journey.