“Carol, you have written and published a book! Congratulations! How did you do it?”
Writing I Just Want to Paint: Mixing the Colors You Want! has, as many of you know, consumed much of my time and energy the past two years. As I depart the launch phase, I have been reflecting upon the process and I thought I’d share it with you. Some of you might like to hear one author’s insight to becoming an independent book publisher. The latter is sometimes referred to as “Indie.”
Readers of my blog and my book, know that clarity is foremost in my mind when explaining a concept or skill. I believe clarity is key to understanding or learning something new. I also think it is a skill I have worked at developing. Here is my attempt at explaining a complex and time-consuming process.
What are the 5 Phases of Publishing a Book?
Caveat: I write this article solely from my perspective. I am not a book publishing coach or consultant. I have never seen the process described in phases as I have identified. My book publishing story is about writing a non-fiction book — a how-to art instruction book. I outline the phases I have experienced though many nuances and details of book publishing are skimmed, so consider this an overview.
The Phases are:
- Incubating and Conceiving the Idea
- Distributing and Shipping
Even though I have portrayed them as a sequence, publishing a book, like any creative endeavor, is not linear and be a bit mushy with lots of overlap. However, I think these five phases represent a model and provide a good framework to take an aerial view of the process.
Phase 1: Incubating and Conceiving the Idea
I have often been asked the question, “When did you start writing your book?”
Technically, I could say that I started writing my book in 2010. That is when I began to consistently write blog posts about color. Then in 2013, I started asking myself these book related questions, “What would my book about? What do I know that others want to know?” and questions like “Who would read it?” and “How would I differentiate it from other color theory books?”
Interestingly, first color book attempt was going to be a series of three books. The first in this series was: Smart Artists Study Color to Sell More Paintings! An Easy Step-by-Step Approach to Mixing & Painting with Complementary Colors. (Whew! That was a mouthful!) A few people read it and I hired someone to edit it. However, it just didn’t ring sufficient or satisfactory. Self-doubt also played a role, so I kept writing my blog posts. The incubation phase continued.
Things changed when I was chosen to be an instructor for Bluprint (formerly Craftsy). A high quality video production company for online art and craft instruction.
This was the turning point. Not only was I forced to create meaningful content and spend three arduous days in a studio videotaping, but I was forced to articulate my color concepts clearly. Once it was published, I started receiving unsolicited testimonials from Craftsy students telling me how I was impacting their painting and their artistic lives. I was deeply moved and inspired to write a book.
This experience drove me to keep asking, “How do I make my color book different? What isn’t available to painters who want to better understand color? What was missing in the color book world?”
I spent time reviewing my 30+ books on color while asking these questions. Then AHA! The Eureka moment arrived! We have all experienced the emotional high when we have solved a problem that has been haunting us. I was jazzed.
My book would describe my step-by-step color mixing method. I had been teaching this for years. The difference is that the book would ONLY be about mixing color Not about how to apply it nor applying the science of color. The subject of color can be complex and overwhelming, and most color books are not easy to use or to apply. I was excited when this focused niche finally appeared. The book’s content would be unique and unlike any other color theory book on the market.
Now, the real work needed to begin — writing. By the way, this incubating phase can span from moments to years before an idea comes to the forefront in someone’s mind.
Phase 2: Writing the Book
This is the phase that we think of most often when someone says, “I’m writing a book.” Writing is the essence, obviously, but I believe most people, including myself, enter the book writing phase without knowing how the book needs to be written if we want people to buy it. In other words, I needed to know my reading audience.
To start writing, I had a lot of organizing to do and tons of existing content to analyze. Book outlines and various structures were considered before I started writing. Then I dove in. I have no idea how many drafts I wrote. It took, I am estimating, 16-18 months to write I Just Want to Paint! Writing never really ends because words can always, unlike paintings, be edited.
Writing a book requires a significant time commitment, but more importantly, it demands discipline. Writers join online and offline groups or hire a writing coach to provide the support to write and ultimately finish their book. I didn’t need this. My editor and my husband were my main sources of cheer leading, as well a good friends and my cherished students.
Making this commitment meant my painting time was cut significantly. However, I had to paint sporadically to stay sane! Painting grounds me, particularly after moments of my head hurting from writing. LOL!
As I mentioned, writing a book such as mine, requires identifying and knowing the target readers. In fact, to facilitate this, I wrote up a paragraph describing my ideal reader and gave her a name — Pat. Keeping her in the forefront of my mind helped to keep me on track with my content and writing style. I also had to start articulating the goals of my book. Here is a list of them. I wanted my book to be:
- High quality
- Well designed and easy to use
- Lie flat, making it easy for a painter to use while following the exercises
- A hardback
- Able to compete with and differentiate from other color mixing books
- Marketable to my target market as well as to libraries and art school departments
- A size that is easy to handle and usable while my exercises are being followed
Every book carries its unique goals. As you can imagine, these vary significantly from one author to the next. Each of these goals impacted decisions I had to make going forward.
Editing is key to the success of a book. I hired a developmental editor, also called a content editor to assure the clarity I wanted. Though my husband and an art friend had read the first draft, I knew I needed an expert. Fortunately, I found a very good one who was magical with words. A good one is worth every penny and he/she will make or break a book’s success. This also meant that I did a lot of re-writing. Argh! However, it resulted in the high quality book I wanted to publish.
After my editor had finished her job, six beta readers volunteered to read the manuscript. I printed and sent off notebooks to each. Within a couple of months, they were returned with marvelous comments and encouraging words. Their input was invaluable and I am forever grateful. It also meant another round of re-writing and editing.
Phase 3: Producing the Book
Is this about printing the book? Yes, but that is but a small part of actually getting it into a finished copy and putting it into someone’s hands.
Before going to print, I had to do:
- Determine the title. Oh my! There were many iterations and lots of opinions.
- Firmly decide on my chapter titles
- Hire a book cover designer. Tip: Interview at least three before deciding on one.
- Hire a proof reader. These editors are essential and prevent embarrassment down the road.
- Establish a price, which requires doing market research.
- Hire a professional photographer for quality head shots.
- Buy and retrieve an ISBN.
- Hire someone to create a CIP, which is that gobblie-gook you see on the copyright page. This is required if you want to sell to libraries.
- Hire a book publishing consultant to assist in wading through this quagmire.
- Hire legal assistance to apply for two trademarks.
- Hire an illustrator to put the finishing touches on my cartoon, her name is Paulette.
- Organize high quality photographs of the over 120+ images I have in the book. Creating them and getting them in all of the correct places throughout the book was a HUGE undertaking. Each photo also had to have a special file name.
- Hire an interior book designer. Like the developmental editor and cover designer, these experts are critical.
- Research printers. Because my book needed to lie flat, be a hardback (I considered a spiral binding, but they do not hold up) and had color on every page, I was forced to find a overseas printer to keep the costs affordable. I did solicit bids from US printers, but the cost was prohibitive.
- Continue to manage the expenses, which seemed to get out hand at times, and there were multiple surprises.
- Hire a consultant to help me maneuver through the overseas printing process.
- Write these pages: copyright, acknowledgements, dedication, glossary, author biography, how to work with Carol, resources
- Begin learning about Amazon and all of its requirements.
After the book is designed and you have read it a gazillion times — oh, my! — then I hired a line editor or what is sometimes called a “cold eye” editor. The book looks and reads differently after it is designed. These editors find lots of errors or design inconsistencies that need to be corrected. Errors! Ugh!
Meanwhile, thoughts about marketing the book had to be attended to during this phase of publishing a book. By the way, book launch strategies should be starting to formulate toward the end of writing the manuscript.
As in any large project, there are always bumps in road and unforeseen delays. I had to terminate contracts with two designers, not because of their design capabilities, but their lack of professional communication and project management skills. I also made a variety mistakes throughout, which were humbling and all part of the process.
One other dimension I have not discussed is the mental and emotional aspect of writing and publishing a book. Perhaps in another post I will elaborate. I will offer that the process is much like designing and building a house. It’s a labor of love requiring belief in what you are doing, many sacrifices and a willingness to learn every step of the way. It can be emotionally and mentally draining at times.
Stay tuned for Part Two of The 5 Phases of Book Publishing.
Are there any surprises from what you read? What did you learn that you did not know before?
What idea do you have for a book?
I would love to hear your comments. Please share this post using the social media buttons below or forward this onto a friend/colleague.
Gratefully and Colorfully yours,