Writing a Self-Publishing Workbook: An Interview with Andrea Schmidt
Inspiration for Writing a Self-Publishing Workbook
Claire: Congratulations on the release of your new self-publishing workbook, Almost Done Writing: Now What? What inspired you to write a book about the self-publishing process for nonfiction?
Thanks so much Claire! Every single word of this book is written to help my clients. People hire me to design nonfiction books for them (covers and sometimes the interior) once the manuscript is edited, and they’re often terrified about what comes next. There are so many unknowns, and so much conflicting advice. I am obsessed with helping my clients succeed, so instead of firehosing them with long emails, random PDFs and links to blog posts as we go along, I created this resource.
The Importance of Book Design
Claire: How did your experience in book designing affect the way you approached writing this book?
I wrote and designed this book at the same time, which is my usual way. I just can’t help myself – I want to see how the book will look as the writing unfolds! The form (or “container”) of the book is so closely tied to the reading experience. As a book designer, merging the two activities helps keep me motivated throughout the process.
Creating Helpful Exercises
Claire: You give readers straightforward instructions to tackle overwhelming or intimidating projects such as spending 40 minutes browsing similar titles for inspiration when designing a book cover. What advice would you give other authors about creating self-publishing workbook exercises that are both appealing and attainable for readers?
I would suggest being relentlessly curious about what works best for you and your clients/readers. And when something goes wrong, that is valuable information too. Also, ask as many other people as possible what works for them. And research what other people do. I’ve been working with clients as a designer for around 20 years so I’ve had all that time to gauge what works and doesn’t work, and fine-tune my processes.
Finding Support For a Book Launch
Claire: In one section you discuss the importance of a BLAST or a Book Launch Support Team. Who was a part of your BLAST and what are some of the ways they helped you with your launch?
Andrea: For this book launch, my support team was a small group of around 11 people who volunteered to help me promote the book, including my Mom, a few professional colleagues and some enthusiastic friends. I kept the wording of my requests really specific so no one would get overwhelmed. People are busy, and just the fact that they volunteered to support me was incredible! The main thing I asked them to do was to help spread the word during my launch week. The group really went above and beyond for me, I feel.
Mistakes to Avoid During a Book Launch
Claire: Any advice you want to share in this interview about the mistakes to avoid in a book launch?
Andrea: Assuming the book looks professional and has been professionally edited, the biggest mistake people make when it comes to the launch is not scheduling enough time to organize the launch and marketing. That leads to stress during the book launch because you might be disappointed by the lack of sales and impact. There are a lot of things you can do if you want to send the book powerfully into the world.
Of course, whenever we’re doing something for the first time, we’re learning on our feet, improvising, trying new things and doing things imperfectly. Being hard on yourself will make all of this unbearable. Independent authors (including myself) don’t usually see the bigger marketing picture the first time around, and often expect our book will make a bigger impact than it does. Simply making a book available doesn’t automatically mean it will sell. So my biggest message to authors is to be kind to yourself and do your best. Plus you’re putting yourself in the spotlight, which most writers don’t enjoy.
Writing a Nonlinear Self-Publishing Workbook
Claire: Throughout the self-publishing workbook you offer suggestions for jumping forward and looking back in the book. When writing it, did you follow the order of the book or did you skip back and forth as well?
As I was writing it, I was jumping around a lot, depending specifically on what I was helping my clients with at that time. The book is organized roughly in chronological order of the steps I take my clients through. Some parts of the process are linear (e.g., book design can’t start until the book title is set), and some are not (e.g., writing an author bio can be done anytime), which is why there’s some jumping around.
Writing the Book You Want to Read
Claire: You break down every step of the self-publishing process into straightforward tasks and advice so that even the “eye-wateringly boring stuff” seems doable. Was this book a resource you wished you could have had when self-publishing your first book, The Fun of Baking Bread?
Yes! Definitely! This is definitely a tool that would’ve helped me a lot when I wrote my first book 🙂 In fact, when I received the printed proof in my hands, I immediately started using it to help me get my marketing plan organized for this book launch.
Tips on Establishing Tone
Claire: You do an excellent job of maintaining a conversational but still professional tone throughout the book to guide readers on their next steps in the self-publishing process. How did you create this voice which maintains your credibility and experience, while still seeming friendly and personal?
Thank you so much Claire! To be honest, when I wrote this book I had a real-life client in mind (who is almost finished writing her manuscript, and has already hired me to design her book). She is really nervous, and I wanted to be able to soothe her and help her feel more confident that she can do this, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. So the tone I use writing this book matches how I talk to her.
Tips for Asking for Advance Reviews
Claire: You ask readers to create their list of dream reviewers to ask for an advance review. Who wrote advance reviews for you? Any advice you have for asking people?
When you are thinking about asking people for advance reviews for your upcoming book, think about a) people who have professional credibility in your industry b) with whom you have goodwill. Goodwill is an important business asset that comes from being kind, patient, helpful and authentic with those you work with. You can ask strangers, but until you’re famous it will be much less likely they will want to help you out.
Advice on Staying Positive
Claire: You provide activities and advice regarding feeling discouraged or doubtful; what are some things you do to stay positive during the publishing process?
Make it a priority to be a good friend to yourself. That looks different for everyone, but it’s something I have to constantly remind myself to do. Meditate in the morning. Take breaks and go for a walk if you notice you’re getting tired.
Choosing a Self-Publishing Platform
Claire: You self published Almost Done Writing: Now What? using Ingramspark/ Amazon KDP, can you share why you chose that publishing option, any particular advantages or disadvantages? What was that experience like?
These companies are the “big players” in self-publishing, both offering printed books + shipping via “print-on-demand.” Print-on-demand (also known as “POD”) is a revolution for small publishers of print books because in the past you’d have to order minimum quantities of books. E.g., 1000 books.
Since my book is a workbook, it was important to me that I could easily print and ship books during the months before it was published, which was easy with IngramSpark. IngramSpark distributes books to retailers (print-on-demand) and KDP provides books directly to customers. Both these platforms have their quirks, strengths and learning curve.
The nuances are ever-changing. For example, KDP is currently offering a print-on-demand hardcover option on a trial/test basis (by invitation). Also, I just learned this morning that KDP is now offering some of the same options to independent publishers that until now they had offered to just traditional publishers.
More About Andrea
Andrea Schmidt is an award-winning nonfiction book designer and author of Almost Done Writing: Now What? A Guided Workbook for Self-Publishers (Nonfiction). She lives in Ontario Canada and loves coffee, the public library, and exclamation marks. Learn more at bookdesigner.ca.