My first book – The Shopkeeper’s Home – published back in 2015, for which I worked with a mainstream book publisher. It was a wonderful experience, I learnt a lot, and it was definitely a proud moment in my career. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write more books, and while I’ve had various discussions with publishers over the years, it hasn’t happened. I think partly because they tend to have a lot of boxes they have to tick when it comes to deciding if a book is commercially viable, and partly because I was keen for any books I write to be 100% in line with what I do on the magazine. It didn’t make sense to me to write something that wasn’t, so even though I was offered some other book concepts, they never felt right.
I thought it was a lost cause, but then we recently ran a couple of Creative Sessions (our online workshop programme) about book publishing – one on working with a publisher with author Joanna Thornhill, and one about self-publishing with Helena Murphy, who had recently self-published her own cookbook.
After hearing what Helena had to say, it suddenly dawned on me, I’d been publishing magazines for years on my own, why couldn’t I publish my own books too!?
One of the advantages of self-publishing is you can work to you own timescales, so whether you want to take your time fitting it in around other things, or you want to get it done in a matter of weeks, it’s completely up to you. I had initially planned to take my time producing the first book, but once I got going I was enjoying it so much I just powered on, and it was ready within a couple of months!
Of course, there are some disadvantages to self-publishing – things that a mainstream publisher would be in control of, such as distribution, marketing and PR, printing and financing the book. But, for me I was comfortable with this being a smaller scale project, I wasn’t aiming for it to be a Sunday Times bestseller, I wanted to make a book that I would want to own, and that I hoped our 91 Magazine readership would also love. Plus I already had a certain level of distribution that I have set up with the magazine, so I was confident I’d be able to get it in to some shops, as well as selling it direct through our website.
If there is one thing I recommend doing if you are self-publishing your own book it is keeping a very detailed log of EVERYTHING! For me, this was details of every shop I was featuring – contact name, email etc, as well as when I’d contacted them, and where things were with each one – ie. images supplied, or photoshoot scheduled etc. I kept track of photography credits and I also ticked off whether photographers had signed and submitted my image permission form. I also kept track of which parts I’d written so far, and had images in for, this way you can track your progress and see what still needs doing.
It was all such an enjoyable process and came together relatively easily. I’ve been reflecting on it all since it published and toying with the idea of becoming a small scale niche publisher and helping other writers to self-publish, perhaps in the near-ish future. My daughter will move up to high school in 2025, so I *may* have more work time available, so I love the idea of a new challenge. I’d love to hear if this might be something anyone would be interested in. I could help with everything from refining the concept, to planning, copy editing, photo editing, legal, printing, distribution etc. A seed of an idea, but one I’m excited to nurture and grow.
In the meantime, if you do have an idea for a book, but don’t know how to get started, I highly recommend checking out those Creative Sessions on book publishing, they are so full of great advice and practical information.
If you haven’t bagged your copy of PLACES TO SHOP yet, then you can order it direct from our website, or keep an eye out for it in lots of our lovely independent stockists across the country.