Charlotte: Your book, Full, was originally self-published to positive reviews and even won a Nautilus award. What made you decide to write Full in the first place? Where did you get the inspiration to write it?
Kimber: I started writing Full almost exactly 11 years ago. The title was different: I called it Finding Fullness and considered it my accountability plan for finally figuring out the answers to two big questions I had never had the courage to ask: “Why am I hungry all the time?” and “Why do I hate my body so much?” Treating it as a book project gave my inner journey more of a sense of importance and urgency. I could approach a doctor or expert and say, “I’m writing a book about how to feel less hungry, do you have any advice?” So I started it not knowing how it would end, or if I would find answers. It was a total leap of faith. I had a strong hunch that thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, for the first time in my life I had the skills I needed to figure out how to heal myself. That hunch paid off in fireworks and backflips.
Charlotte: How did you find a publisher to rerelease Full? Why did you choose this publisher? What did the process of finding a publisher look like? How was it different from your process of self-publishing?
Kimber: I spent 2011-12 looking for a publisher and an agent for Full. I probably queried close to 400 folks altogether, met editors at conferences, did agent speed dating, and even got really close to an offer with a very generous publisher who did two rounds of reading and revising with me, a process which made the book a lot better and which I’m grateful for to this day. But at the end of two years, I had no book deal and no agent to represent me. The main problem was expressed as “You’re not famous.”
Everyone who had read even the first sentence of the book told me that Full was important and needed to be out in the world. So with that assurance in mind, I decided to self-publish. I had a couple of dear friends who had self-published their books and with their encouragement and assistance, I took Full in that direction. I self-published Full in paperback in Dec 2013 with Amazon’s platform, Createspace, a print-on-demand service. I worked hard to build my platform, get the book out into social media, arrange speaking opportunities, and offer giveaways to boost attention around Full. And it was extremely well-received!
Two months after Full came out, I received an email from an acquisitions director at New Harbinger Publications saying that they wanted to talk to me about publishing Full. After years of so many rejections (and lack of response), I was thrilled. I considered for about two minutes the possibility of saying “no” to the opportunity. I’d put so much work into the book and it was already out there. Did I really want to pull it back, revise it, and do it all over again? But the most important thing for me all along has been this message: that it’s possible to heal our relationship to food and our bodies. I knew that a mainstream publisher was much better situated to give the message a louder voice, as well as get the book into bookstores all over the country, which was impossible for me to accomplish on my own. Plus they wanted to put it out in hardcover, which I had only imagined in my wildest dreams. It was a fantasy come true and I’m so grateful to the folks at New Harbinger for seeing Full’s potential and value.
By the way, I signed a second book contract with New Harbinger in Nov 2014, and we’re in the copyediting stage of it now. I wrote 52 Ways to Love Your Body in 75 days over the winter holidays and it’s coming out at the beginning of 2016. And I still have no agent! Admittedly, I haven’t been looking. I’m kind of hoping the right agent—one who loves Full and the #loveyourbody message—will contact me, just like the right publisher did. Could happen.
Charlotte: What did the process of revising the book look like? How did you and the publishers work together during this process?
Kimber: Every time I’ve revised the book, it’s become better and this time was no exception. The editors helped me make the writing tighter, cleaned up some of the chronology, made me explain my terms (like “mindfulness”), and asked me to include more scenes with my family. I was happy to do it, and so grateful to receive editorial feedback that I didn’t have to pay for… in fact, they were paying me to revise the book via the advance. It was awesome.
It’s also an important challenge for any writer to find that sweet spot where you are able to receive feedback and make changes and also stand firm in maintaining the vision and style of your writing. I did my best with this, and the editorial staff at New Harbinger was great about both pushing me to be rigorous and letting me have my way sometimes.
Charlotte: Were the changes mostly made by your choice or by the choices of the publisher/editor? What are some of the changes the publisher wanted during the editing process? Why did they want these things changed?
Kimber: A couple of big changes to the book that I wasn’t expecting were the result of a part of the publishing business I knew nothing about. In order to have your book carried by certain major bookstores, you have to have them approve the cover, content, title, and subtitle. Who knew? The publisher tried to use an updated variation of my original cover, which I was naturally very fond of—it was my design expressed beautifully by an artist/photographer friend—but the bookstore rep nixed it. That and the subtitle. The good news was they said that they loved the content and title and said they would carry it if we changed the cover and subtitle. We changed the subtitle from “How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself” to “How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul.” I decided not to worry about the subtitle. I mean no one remembers the subtitle of Eat Pray Love, right? (Seriously. It has a subtitle, I kid you not.)
And then there was the cover. The publisher kept the whole cover redesign thing a little hush-hush from me, and I was kind of worried about that because I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of authors who hated their covers but had to live with them. But I was grateful that they had given my original cover a shot, so I decided to be patient and not bug them about it too much, though it was hard. When they showed me the new cover (they had already had the bookseller approve it—strategically sneaky, I’d say), I loved it right away. It was beautiful, bright, and simple, and preserved the natural feel of the original. I wanted a cover that would draw someone over from across the bookstore. The designer at New Harbinger did right by me, and I’m delighted. Everyone who sees it says they LOVE it.
Charlotte: How was the traditional publishing process different from the self-publishing process? What are some things that worked better with this traditional method of publishing compared to self-publishing? What didn’t work as well? What worked better with self-publishing compared to traditional publishing? What didn’t work as well?
Kimber: The big difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing is doing it all yourself (or paying others to help you) versus having a team of people experienced in the publishing world behind you, whose livelihood is connected to your success. This is huge. Putting a book out there is a ton of work, and much easier with a team of many rather than a team of one. I’m lucky with regard to the problems of editorial control that many authors complain about – they’ve not been a big issue for me thanks to flexibility and trust on both sides.
I think the issue with the cover illustrates the tradeoffs pretty well. Would you rather have exactly the cover you want or be in bookstores nationwide? Authors will have different responses to that, but I suspect many would make my same decision and be glad they did.
Charlotte: What are some interesting promotional things you’re doing for the rerelease? How are they different from promotions you did for the first release of Full?
Kimber: The fun promotional activity I’m most excited about is a raffle for a 12-book Love Your Body Library (and more prizes) for people who share online and on social media about #fullbykimber and its #loveyourbody message. I handpicked 12 books that either helped me love my body or have inspired me to keep loving it. It’s a way to reward people for the ways they are supporting the book already and also a way to share the love. We’re giving away five full libraries and folks can sign up between now and May 15 via my website at kimberyoga.com. It’s like “BOOM!”, summer reading list in your mailbox!
Charlotte: What are some things you’re doing differently between your first book launch and the launch of your republished book? What are some things you’re doing similarly?
Kimber: One thing that’s different is having someone to pitch my articles for me. It’s wonderful to be able to just write them and have someone else figure out where they can be published. Also, thanks to the publisher and publicist, I get to be a HuffPost blogger now, something I never managed to make happen before.
I am still teaching yoga classes, workshops, and retreats, making my own marketing materials, sharing lots on social media, and working to make my website more visible.
Another big difference is that the publisher encouraged me to start making videos. So I started a YouTube channel. They also asked me to make a book trailer, which I had zero experience in. But I wrote a script, hired a camera crew, enlisted a cast of friends, and headed down to a beautiful park where we interviewed women on the street for a body-image video. The result was amazing… better than I could have imagined. It will make you laugh, think, and cry. It’s got more than 25, 000 views on YouTube.
Charlotte: What is some of the positive feedback you’ve received since republishing the book? What are some of the lessons you learned from the first release of your book to now?
Kimber: Folks loved the book the first time around, and seem to be loving it this time around too… so it’s nice to know we didn’t wreck it! Seriously, I love that the book is tighter, clearer, and has more of my family life in it. One person said, “It read like smooth, pure honey.” Now that’s a review!
One thing that hasn’t changed, with or without a publisher, is how much work it is to get the book out there and sell it: there’s a lot of footwork. It seems like the book gets sold one reader at a time, through one personal moment of connection, and one heart moved, opened, and felt. It’s not magic, and it’s not easy. It is hard when you’re unknown. Support new authors. We need love too.
Charlotte: How can our readers reach you?
Kimber: The best way to reach me is through my website, where you can sign up for my free ebook, 10 Powerful Ways to See Your Own Beauty, register for the #loveyourbody library raffle, and receive my e-newsletters to find out about the raffle and other events. Also, feel free to friend me on Facebook (Kimber Simpkins–mention that you’re part of Lisa Tener’s community, so I know you’re not a stalker from Siberia), like the Full By Kimber page, and follow me on Twitter @kimbersyoga. And may your book be even luckier than mine!
Kimber Simpkins is a writer and yoga teacher transplanted from the Midwest to Northern California. Her successful shift from hating her body to loving it surprised no one more than herself, and it continues to inspire her students and readers everywhere. When not on her yoga mat or thinking up ways to treat her body as a friend, Kimber may be found playing, meditating, or hula-hooping in her backyard garden. You can find out more about Kimber, including her Love Your Body workshops, at www.kimberyoga.com.
Note: This writer cares about typos. If you find one, click here to be part of the EditMob – it’s anonymous.