OpEd: Journey to Publishing
I wrote Ready in 2012. I quit my job far too early and had time to document the surprises, the "gosh, this coulda been done while gainfully employed," or the "who knew securing real estate can take so long...." while the costs continued to ratchet up.
The plan in 2012 was to pass all this "entrepreneur be ware" content I had along to my colleagues who were curious about entrepreneurship since not a lot of folks in my immediate circle had been so... flippant. In my writing, handled the honesty and scary realities by teasing out the parallels of being a parent to something so new; on how being tethered to your business is like a parent is to their baby. I had some quippy content! Alas, I put the "stack" down (seeing the evolution of my manuscript, it's hard for me to call that first version anything that would suggest it was a readable story) while my first business took off in fall of 2012. I'd update some content here or there in the next 5 years but I wouldn't give it much more love.
Fast forward to 2017, I had sold the business to be more present for my young children. But still had that entrepreneurial urge to create. I rewrote the book, this time with first-hand intelligence on parenting and child-birthing since version one theorized what it was like to operate on someone else's timeline (ie baby business) but also what responsibility and deep connectedness meant. I was able to put much, much, much more color around what all that meant after having two babies of my own in the years since compiling the initial "stack" of lessons learned.
In July of 2017, I put my laptop down and contacted the highly recommended Lauren Taylor Shute to see about editing the thing that I thought was in pretty good shape. We talked through my why, what I wanted for this book and what I could see making a difference from the sea of other business books. We agreed that the book needed a lot more narrative (despite my rewrite efforts, it was more fact based than supporting examples) so we began the work on developing my story from a new outline. If you knew me then, I'd describe this experience as moving a linear book to something closer to a circle maze.
Not knowing what the end product would look like, I assumed if my manuscript was a B-minus (assessed today, version two in 2017 would be graded an F) would be at least an A-minus at the end. I pulled pieces of my own copy from the old book and tried to chunk it into the new outline to not abandon all of my work. By February of 2018, we had wrapped the project and while I felt like I had taken a gigantic step back, the book, err version three, was in much better shape.
I did a lot more tinkering from Feb 2018-April 2018 and then I got back in touch with Lauren (now with version 4) to start the real editing. Again, self-assessment was a B+ and I just wanted to get some other eyes on it to make it an A. We agreed to a Book Development edit (which was, this really should be in Chapter three, this sentence doesn't make sense, and a lot of heck yeah - this message is so true! type comments). While important... and critical to the book becoming more readable and cohesive (it made so much sense in my mind alone!), the book was not ready for the Line Edit. Version five commenced line editing in the late summer of 2018. This edit was what I was expecting (pun, get it!?). Lots of reworking of messages, making sure the tone is consistent, ensuring the take-aways are clear. I received all the comments back in the late fall with a promise to clear all the comments within a month or two. The holidays came and I had my dear friend and forever editorial assistant Joey on the scene to help me. Life, per usual, got in the way of my making progress against plans. I also asked my friends Karen and Kristen to serve as beta readers on the book.
I sent pages incorporating all the changes to Lauren in January of 2019. Here again, I thought I was pretty close to the finish line. Here again, I was not. But still much closer than I was a full year prior. While she preferred to do a book doctoring edit, I proclaimed that if six versions of this beast wasn't going to cut the mustard, it would never get done. Plus, I wanted to be pencils down in 2018. Why? Because my first business opened in 2012, my first son arrived in 2014, my second in 2016, and I needed some matter of creation to show for 2018 if I was going to feel whole. (Don't judge - I like to go with the flow but I love patterns....oh, do I love patterns.) She agreed to do a final edit plus a combined light copy edit whereby she'd get an editor to suggest graphics and call outs that helped pull together the two very opposing sides of my book. The business/tactical side (I call the yang side) and the spiritual/life lesson side (I call the yin side). After I clicked off on all of the suggestions, I was done! Lucky number seven!
But, not so fast. Next up needed a composer. This is the person who lays out your pages and makes sure the spacing looks good, picks out the fonts for your message and formats things through magical devices and years and years of wisdom in finalizing manuscripts. He was magical (he was also named Dick Margulis) performed a second copy edit and got to work on incorporating the sketch visual aids into the book per the instructions the previous copy editor had. He made a lot of suggestions, mostly stylized. I almost left out a very important step. In order to 'prep' the book, one needs to make sure the formatting is just so. While the copy editor (version seven edit) did a lot of this, there was a fair amount missing. Simply having a header and using bullets is not something a book preparer can understand. I tried to save some money by doing this myself (paragraph by paragraph of a 280 page book - all for the goal of 'understanding' the coding of the book). YouTube was helpful but my book had a lot of "difficult matter" so there was no chance I could get it to it's necessary 'prepped' state without some help. Dick stepped in and got it ready (another pun!), found some more errors in the copy edit and saved me a ton of money before the proof read (which is the final, no more edits else it will cost you, step). I was reassured that even books that have 10 copy edits can still have errors, so we'll do our best and that philosophy stuck with me.
While this was going on, I was back on Lauren's calendar putting together a marketing plan to help reach lots of people, including endorsements, reviewers, articles, influencers and more. I LOVE this stuff, but I had no idea book promotion came with literally a 60 point checklist. My Asana (beloved project management tool) was blowing up! We were also narrowing in on the cover and making choices to use this hue versus that, serifs versus sans, and all kinds of choices. Like every other project I've managed (home renovation, retail space build-out...book composing), I was choiced-out. I made some decisions JUST to get past them. So far they've felt good but I definitely was in the "I just can't care" camp. A quick shout out to the talented Melissa Lew for her creative and most importantly patient and loving work on the book cover.
Finally in August, glorious August, of 2019, I had a complete manuscript. I've lost count at which version the final copy was, but the cover was on version 18 by the time the files were sent over. I had a plan of six months worth of marketing and propagation efforts to get those pre-sales and stand out just a bit in the sea of other authors who have worked just as hard and desire some rewards. I've been chipping away at it and for the most part, buyers are folks I know. Most of my efforts to have articles published haven't worked and the timeline for presales has not been successful. (Amazon only allows presales Kindle but most everyone I know wants the printed book). So I've finally released the printed version as of today. Kindle presales are still through 9/24, but the physical book is available. I could not crack the Amazon code for perfectly timing the release of the print copy but alas, I tried and read every offshore operator and forum I could find on this subject.
This month, I'm trying to get into local bookstores but so far only 1.5 bites. The book market is tough. The work is just now beginning (when I really, really, really thought I'd be celebrating now!). That's what I talk about in my book though, and need to remind myself of here: the milestones may not be obvious amidst all of the to-dos. There may never be a natural time to rest. But rest you must, because the next wave is coming and if you don't pause to regard that last ride, they all start to run together.
Here's to all the learning, learning-sharing, and the big glass of champagne I plan to have this weekend at my book launch party, which incidentally is the same day (9/21) as the opening of House of Steep in 2012. What's also auspicious about 9/21 is that when Steep was opened, we chose that day entirely due to a customer wanting to bring her sisters there for her birthday... and realized the following year that it also coincided with International Day of Peace.... which was exactly perfect as peace was the experience I was actually selling among the tea and foot soaks on the menu. So 9/21 for the book launch (driven by proximity to 9/24 on sale date - only having to do with avoiding being lost in the sea of holiday book launches). All in all, 9/21 was entirely unplanned, but exceptionally neat timing.
And this kind of thing, Universal timing, makes this entire blog post...representing the entire book writing process, all the more rewarding. Sales or not, I believe this book was meant to be written by me and through all the painful processes detailed above, calling myself an "author" finally feels right.