So, you want to write a book?

We just did. It had been a dream of mine for a very long time, but I was afraid because I thought it would be difficult. I was wrong. It can be done, relatively simply!

Caveat one: We literally just released this book less than a week ago, so I’m still learning a lot. I may have to update this post later as it’s still brand new waters.

Caveat two: I started writing this at the gym, so I may come back and add details that I forgot in between sets of squats.

Caveat three: I am not a lawyer, nor do I have an MBA. This is the documentation of an experience. You may want to consult with a professional, as this is not intended to be advice.

The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, I need to document the process while it’s still fresh in my mind. Second, hopefully in doing so, this will serve as a roadmap for others who wish to do the same.

This post will provide information on beginning a publishing company. It will also include information on how to crowdsource an anthology. For example, our book has authors from all over the country. Not everything will apply to everyone, so pick and choose what is relevant to you.

One more thing before jumping in…I need to thank everyone who made this project possible, beginning with the 19 other collaborating authors, all of the chapter editors, the EduMatch community, my educational and non-educational friends, and huge props to my family! I had no idea what I was doing, but my parents are writers and really took me under their wing. So did my edu writer friends who have already published. Looking forward to more collaboration with all whom I’ve mentioned and more in 2017.

Ok, ready? Set? Lehgo.


Simon Sinek says to start with the why.

Have a Purpose 

It doesn’t have to be grandiose. My purpose was that I’m passionate about sharing. I strongly feel that part of being an educator is also to educate one another. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues, and I wanted to share as well. Just as our students have multiple ways of learning, so do we. Some people like reading books.

I chose to crowdsource this book to get multiple perspectives on multiple topics. Every author in the book is an expert at what he or she does, and was willing to share. When I say “experts,” I am not using that term in an elitist way; quite the opposite. We all have expertise in something. Find yours and share it to make our field better. Knowledge only increases as we share it because it spreads and allows for dialogue. This serves to further polish the idea and make it even better. Off my soapbox.

When I say “experts,” I am not using that term in an elitist way; quite the opposite. We all have expertise in something. Find yours and share it to make our field better. Knowledge only increases as we share it because it spreads and allows for dialogue. This serves to further polish the idea and make it even better. Off my soapbox.

Get your business in order

This section is mainly for publishers, edupreneurs, and organizations. Upon the recommendation of friends, when EduMatch was ready, I went to Legalzoom to get it registered officially to do business as an LLC. This was about a year in. Shortly after that, I applied for a trademark, which required a product, hence the book.

How do you know when you’re ready? It’s a blurry line, to be honest. I’d say definitely anytime money changes hands, for sure. You want to make sure to legally separate your personal assets from that of your organization or company.

This wasn’t the case for us…at the time, EduMatch was self-funded, and still is (meaning, it costs money to run and doesn’t make any lol). Honestly, it came down to branding. I wrote a post a while back about how branding is viewed by some as a dirty word, but like it or not, everyone has a brand, also known as reputation. Just like Tony Sinansis and Joe Sanfelippo said at a 2013 edcamp session that changed my life, “tell your story or someone else will tell it for you.”

I registered to protect the EduMatch brand. We stand for the passion for helping all children. We stand for open sharing of ideas. We stand for educators educating educators. We stand for grassroots initiatives, collaboration, and for learning with and from each other. We stand for empowerment. We stand for worldwide teamwork, regardless of titles. That’s what I wanted to protect. When you think of EduMatch, I want you to think of all of those things.

Again, off my soapbox. Anyway, Legalzoom can help you set up your business and get you a trademark. It’s pretty easy…not cheap, though. We got the basic package. I got about a million solicitation emails from lawyers who offered to help me file the trademark, but ended up doing it myself.

Plan

Have a plan from the get-go, and begin with the end in mind. Put together an outline with your anticipated release date, and set milestones accordingly. This helped tremendously…winging it works in some cases, but after many unsuccessful attempts, I’ve learned that planning and organization go a long way.

 

Crowdsource

This section is for people who are looking to do an anthology-style publication. If that’s not you, you can skip this part.

Since this was our first book project, I pitched the idea to people in the EduMatch Voxer group as well as a few others, and people who had guest blogged for us. I didn’t want to put it out on Twitter, because then it could have been too much to handle. I told everyone upfront that this was uncharted territory and there was a huge chance it wouldn’t work. Everyone was ok with taking that chance.

Potential contributing authors filled out a Google form with their emails and topics. As responses came in, I sent an email with more details on the project and asked respondents to reconfirm their interest. When they agreed, I then shared with them a Google Doc template. Contributing authors then had about three months to write their chapters.

During the second month, I began to line up chapter editors using a similar process. For this, I sent out a Google form to a slightly larger audience (i.e. the EduMatch mailing list) asking potential chapter editors to fill it out, with their areas of professional interest. I attempted to match potential editors with authors, based on areas of mutual interest. Sometimes they aligned perfectly, sometimes not.

When the submission deadline was up, I shared the Google docs with commenting rights to the chapter editors, who then used the commenting and suggested edit features to provide feedback on content and style. There were more chapter editors than contributing authors, so in some cases, the authors received feedback from multiple people. Each author had feedback from at least one editor.

After the authors had made their final edits, I transferred each chapter to a master template that I had found online. It was in Word format, which complicated things a bit, which leads us to the next section.

Formatting

The book was initially going to be available as a free PDF available for download on our website, edumatch.org, with other options TBD. My goal was to eventually have paperback and Kindle versions as well, but I didn’t want to promise this and not be able to deliver. However, beginning with the end in mind, it had always been set up to be paperback-ready.

In a Voxer group of authors, we discussed how we could make this moonshot happen. I also talked to authors I knew (hi Mom), and read a book on how to publish…that went way over my head. Our trademark category was e-books, which is why it was important to set EduMatch up as a publisher.

Createspace came up multiple times, as did Lulu. Both looked good, but Createspace had lots of options. I downloaded a template that I found online, and transferred the chapters onto it. It was in Word, and that was a headache, but there wasn’t much of a choice. Word lets you have custom section headers, for one thing. This is small, yet vital.  

Lessons learned: hyperlinks when you export to a PDF in “Word for Mac” don’t always work; if you transfer between a PC and a Mac, formatting will almost definitely be lost; use only one computer, because formatting is also probably lost if you upload to Google Drive and download the file to work on another PC; “Manage Versions” of PDFs in Google Drive will become your best friend.

We will come back to that last point. Anyway, after getting all of the chapters transferred, table of contents set, etc., I shared the first draft with the collaborating authors as a Word file and PDF. They could then use track changes to get it back to me with any final revisions if they had Word. If not, they could open the file as a Google Doc and make the changes there as suggested edits so I’d see them. The PDF was necessary in that case so they could see how it would appear with the formatting in place. Google doc conversion lost formatting lol.

After this final round, I shared the web version with the authors through Google Drive. Here is where Manage Versions saved my life. Between all of the formatting losses, there were glitches here and there that I (and Grammarly…and Spell Check) lost. Whenever someone found them, I could fix it in the Word file, resave as a PDF, and upload the new version on Google Drive. Same link…I wasn’t constantly sending out emails with an updated URL.

Publishing

Createspace has a pretty simple process, and you just follow the steps. I’d highly recommend ordering a physical proof before publishing. My mom noticed that the type was different fonts and sizes in some parts of the book, as a result of all of the conversions and glitches. This was subtle but very important. We would not have seen this had it not been for the physical proof.

The cost of the book depends on several factors, including your desired royalty, distribution channels, the number of pages you have, and whether it’s black and white or color.

At first, the price was really high, which was not what we wanted as a group. Our intention was not to make a lot of money, it was to share strategies with other educators. We discussed it in our Voxer group and decided to include a black and white paperback option. Also, we found that by opting out of expanded distribution for the full-color version, we could knock about $10 off. Hence, it’s a collector’s edition.

For the Kindle version, we used KDP. Again, very easy and self-explanatory. The only drawback was that we could only list 10 contributing authors on the form and we had 20. If you have more, just go to their contact page and fill out a ticket. You are then able to send them more names.

Before submitting on Createspace and KDP, we were able to get someone to design a book cover for a great price on Fiverr. Even with all of the gig extras, it was under $50.

The person who did it only did a front cover, but I found out that I had Photoshop through Adobe Creative Cloud, so I did the back. (You only need the back if you’re doing a physical copy.) Gimp is a free alternative, but I didn’t really use it once I found out I had Photoshop. Anyway, Createspace has templates for book covers, too, that you can download.

Even if you don’t know how to use the tools, you can teach yourself with YouTube tutorials. The Colorzilla Google extension lets you find out the numeric code to any color, which may come in handy if you need to match exact hues. Also, you can download Photoshop fonts online from DaFont and install them to your computer. 

Promotion

Once you have the book set up and you’re ready to launch it, start promoting. Here are a few things that worked for us:

  • YouTube Live: We had a panel of authors for an #EduMatch Tweet & Talk, many of them part of this project. This was a good way to get some buzz going. You can do the same. Send out the video when it’s done.
  • Drop hints on social media: Create a hashtag and promote the book across platforms.
    Ally with educational events: We coincided the launch of the book with the wrap of Edcamp Voice on Voxer. All attendees received the link to the free PDF download in their closing letter.
  • Have a launch party: We did this on Zoom, the day after the launch.  Unfortunately, it kept crashing, and the video didn’t record.  So, we will do it again on January 8. If you use Zoom (or anything else), it’s a good idea have multiple backup plans running in case of technical issues.
  • Thunderclap: This is a great, free tool that you can use to crowdsource promotion. You create a message and get people to “support” your project. If you get the required number of supporters (minimum 100), it will send out the same message from all of their accounts at the same time, hence a thunderclap. It’s best if you can set this up well in advance. It takes a while to get it approved, and you need time to get supporters. We were still able to get it to tip in two days, but next time we will allow for more breathing room.
  • Press release: One of our contributing authors yesterday suggested a press release because someone asked her for one. This was a great idea. You can get it done on Fiverr, or just do it yourself. When you have it, send it out to people who may be interested. Remember your target audience…you might want to include Twitter chat moderators,  podcasters,  YouTubers, educational publications, educational organizations/edcamps/conference organizers, and maybe even school district communications offices.

This is where we stand, as of today.

What’s next?

I’m excited to see what 2017 will bring for our project. We will be talking about the book on #RuralEdChat on January 10, and have a book study coming up in March.

EduMatch plans to do a Snapshot for 2017, as well as other books that are in the works. We also have other plans brewing, with details coming soon. Part of the fun is seeing what happens next.

Comments, questions, and ideas are welcomed. As always, thanks for reading!

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