Project Update: Autumn 2016 – Figuring Out Final Steps for Publishing Field Guide #1!

Some of my friends are interested in the process of putting a book together. So, periodically, I post details involved in the most current stage of getting my curriculum series edited and ready for eventual publication. And there’s been a bit of news lately, so here it is.

Shifting From Publisher to Self-Publishing

It’s been four weeks since I found out the conventional publisher I’d hoped would be a match didn’t feel my curriculum series fit with their line. That was disappointing, but I knew it was a doorway to the next set of options to investigate: self-publishing.

What writing a book proposal for a publisher does in helping authors refine their content, the self-publishing prep process does in helping refine all the other details that a publisher would normally take care of. So, after working all month with a company that specializes in helping authors self-publish, now I have a final checklist of what has to be done to get the first volume actually available for sale! It’s a lot of administrative details, many of which I could do for myself, but just because I could do them doesn’t mean I should. Writers often miss identifying their mistakes when it comes to editing and proofreading. And many of us are horrible layout designers. For me, it’s also an issue of best stewardship for very limited energy. So, will just have to wait until the time comes and see what unfolds for hiring outside help from that company to complete those tasks.

Pre-Publication Tasks

There is a potentially lengthy checklist of tasks involved to get manuscripts ready for conventional print runs (producing hundreds or thousands of books), print-on-demand (print copies one at a time), and/or various eBook formats. This finalizing process can involve such activities as:

  • cover design,
  • writing copy for the back cover,
  • graphic design for laying out the interior of the book,
  • getting the ISBN and barcodes,
  • registering the copyright,
  • editing,
  • indexing,
  • proofreading.

And that’s just for the book manuscript! If you’re interested in that process, here’s an infographic on self-publishing that shows some of what’s involved and why book-making is so involved:

In several ways, my project is more complicated than most. I have a series of 7 shorter volumes with a total of about 300,000 words; 250-300 art images; 50 charts and graphics. It will need a lot of design work so the different kinds of information are clear and accessible, and a lot of checking so errors are corrected.

Then, there is also a checklist for work related to sales:

  • Writing promotional materials and/or website pages.
  • Compiling lists of potential endorsers, reviewers, promoters.
  • Arranging for sales, distribution, and returns.

Who knew there were so many things to do to get a book into print?! Well, actually, I did. I’ve been helping other authors do various editing and administrative and marketing tasks since the mid-1980s. So I get it about that part of things. I also get the reality that the author is not the best editor or proofreader or designer for their own material. Like I mentioned earlier, if we made an error along the way, it’s like our eyes refuse to “see” it later so it can be corrected. Hence, we need others to help us get our projects polished and published.

New Kinds of Questions

Meanwhile, as the goal of actual publication gets closer, some surprising (and important!) next-to-final questions have emerged – simply because of having to explore self-publishing. Such as:

Because this series deals with “sustainability” issues, could I potentially get a lot of criticism if I fail to use eco-friendly printing? Or even lose a significant portion of readers?

ANSWER: Actually, yes it does – and rightfully so. Environmental sensitivity is a part of the “do no harm” emphasis in this series. So, this may mean the option for print-on-demand is out, since (as far as I’ve been able to find out) it doesn’t use eco-friendly ink or recycled paper. It may mean that conventional print run is in, using processes and products that lower eco-impact footprints – or that there are only eBooks available until I can afford to do a run of conventional print copies.

Are there any last changes to the overall series format?

ANSWER #1: Yes, as far as configuration. The original plan just so happens to have about 70 chapters in 3 volumes, plus 1 workbook. I found a way to make this divide far more evenly with 7 volumes that have 10 content chapters each, plus 1 teamwork exercise and 2 workbook exercises = 13 chapters. In other words, a “quarterly” – so students can complete 1 chapter each week for about 3 months. Who knew? But then, this is curriculum. Quarterlies fit better with academic schedules in schools, churches, training programs, etc., so this reconfiguration makes sense. (And I’ve almost finished updating the related website to reflect these changes.)

ANSWER #2: No, as far as sequencing. The volumes and chapters were already in the “right” order by topics and themes, the series just needed dividing to make the volumes shorter. The sequence of what Field Guide appears when in the series, plus the order of chapters in each Field Guide, worked itself out over a 5-year period.

Any final adjustments to target audiences?

ANSWER: Nope. Seems like that has settled over the past year or so – after undergoing 6 major changes in the past 20 years since I first wanted to publish some of this material! There are still now just 2 target audiences I seek to educate: abuse survivors (and their support networks) so they can interpret their past and present experiences, and social change agents and organizational developers so they can help prevent such harmful experiences from happening in the future. Intertwining these 2 groups through the series makes sense to me, since many churches, ministries, and non-profit organizations work with people who are survivors of difficult circumstances, abuse, and marginalization. Survivors have much to contribute to educating organizational developers and holding them accountable, and organizational developers have much to contribute to support and empower survivors and their networks.

How will this be funded?

ANSWER: I really don’t know yet. I’ve anticipated that sales of the first Field Guide will help fund final writing and production of the second, and so on. And the overall cover design and interior layout format can be used for follow-up volumes. But details of getting the first one available for sales are yet to be worked out.

Should I subvert the whole system and just upload it all to a blog? Or bypass the giants like Amazon altogether, and only sell through one source? Or just sell the first book through an eBay store for the first year only?

ANSWER: Oh, probably “no” to all of the above, even though there are times when the details of it all are so overwhelming that some off-the-wall solution somehow feels workable. Temporarily. At least such questions help make sure bases are covered, or provide a “frustration-o-meter” for identifying the need to take a break from all the details and decision-making, and just chill.

A Surprise: Reorganizing the Resources

The subdividing of 3 volumes into 7 had a rather exciting (to me, at least) bonus element. Having 7 volumes means I can color-code it with the ROYGBIV spectrum system: red – orange – yellow – green – blue – indigo – violet.

That made it a lot easier to reorganize by volume number the 16 file boxes of books, magazines, papers, and miscellania! (See photos.) I also have another 9 boxes of press kits, programs, and books related just to the movies that I use in my series. And another 5 or so boxes just related to the case study I’m producing on Band Aid/Live Aid and changes in the paradigms for humanitarian efforts over the past few decades. So – 30 file boxes – this may seem like a huge amount, but then, I’ve been immersed in these topics and materials for over 20 years, and gradually collected and processed these project materials over the past 15 years since moving back to California. And color-coding makes those resources more accessible for me to get at when I need them for writing specific chapters.

So, that’s the latest on the “Do Good Plus Do No Harm” series. Thanks for your prayers and notes of encouragement. Good to be a few steps closer to the goal than I was a month ago …