The Decision to Self-Publish
Hello, authors and publishers!
Today you get to hear from Cathy Fisher, author of the cookbook, Straight Up Food. She’ll share how she decided to self-publish and whether she’d do it again.
After working as a cooking instructor for six years, people started asking me if I had a cookbook. I got tired of saying “No,” so I decided to start saying, “I’m working on one.” Putting out a cookbook seemed like a logical next step in my career, so I started going through all my recipes to pick out my favorites, as well as writing the supplementary sections of the book. With a former career in writing and editing for magazines, I enjoyed the writing of the book, and I was on my way!
While I continued to write, I interviewed many authors in my field, and read articles online to help me decide if I should go the traditional publishing route or head down the self-publishing path. This research was an important step for me, because I had clear ideas of how I wanted my book to look and feel. I had heard disheartening stories about traditional publishing houses and first-time authors, such as: while the authors have their say, the publishers often have final say about certain things, like the title and how many photos (if any) they would allow in the book.
A colleague really wanted me to go with his publisher, since we both have similar books (health cookbooks), and this publisher only publishes books like this, so they would market it with their other offerings. I looked at many of their books, but there was nothing special about them. They were formulaic and uninspiring, with few to no photos. Color photos are expensive, I get it, but I knew my students and followers would not take lightly to cookbook by me with no photos, especially since I had become known for my high-quality food pictures on my recipe blog.
I continued to research, and I was learning that there were many pros and cons to each way of publishing. I really did want to self-publish, but felt the need to gain an understanding of both approaches. I interviewed a colleague with seven books under her belt, the last being her only self-published book. After a long conversation, I asked her, “If you write another book, would you self-publish again?” and she said, “No.” She said it was just too much work.
Following the above conversation, I flung myself on my bed and cried for 20 minutes. I felt exhausted and overwhelmed by all the information I was taking in, and also by the pressure to make this and so many other decisions for this project. I also felt a lot of fear about both paths. As I said, in my heart, I wanted to self-publish and I knew I could create a good product, but I was scared of the work that self-publishing required. I knew there would be many new challenges and learning curves ahead, and was nervous about taking them all on I addition to my regular teaching work.
After all my research and contemplation, I followed my heart and decided to self-publish. I knew this way I would get the product I envisioned (since I was the one and only boss of my book), and I knew that putting out a great first book would help me with any subsequent books, by adding to my good reputation in my field; and that it would encourage positive word of mouth. Even though I had never written a book before, I had read plenty, and knew that a stinker of a first book does not enthuse people to buy a second from the same author.
I decided to work with TLC and Tami, because I liked Tami and I liked the TLC website. The professional website let me know I would be working with professionals, and I knew that Tami’s calm, helpful personality and expertise would be a great asset to me along this new road. Not once did Tami or Monica (who designed my book) lose their patience with me (when I’m sure they could have). They were kind and helpful at all points along the process. If Tami didn’t have an answer to a question, she’d research it and get back to me quickly. If I wanted to make yet more changes to my manuscript, Monica would do this happily. I certainly had many times of tension on my end, but I never felt this from these women, and to have them as my foundation was incredible. When you self-publish, you can feel alone at times, so having these two ladies “by my side” was invaluable. Even though I have never met either of them (all of our work is online and by email), I felt that they believed in me, my book and its message. We were a team, and a team is what it takes to do a project like this (I now know).
My book was published in October of 2016, and it is still selling like gangbusters, over 100 books a week on Amazon. So many people tell me that they also buy it for friends and family. I sell it online on my website (StraightUpFood.com) and on Amazon.com, as well as wholesale at the health center where I teach. People from all over the world have my cookbook; it’s a great feeling. And I get equal positive feedback on the content of the book as well as the appearance of the book, thanks to TLC!
As I begin thinking about my second book, I know I will self-publish again. With all this experience under my belt, it would be almost silly not to. I know it will be a lot of work, but I’ve done it before and I can do it again. I have my team and I know what to do. It has been a nice new income stream for me, but more than anything, I just love it: I love the way it looks and feels, I love its message, and I love that it is out there helping so many people heal and feel better. My book is my baby, and I have given it every chance to succeed by creating it with love and care from the very start, including putting it in the very capable hands of TLC.
Wrapping it Up
The TLC team had a great time working with Cathy and enjoys getting updates on her book’s success as well as requests for yet another reprint! She’s one of our most successful authors in terms of sales. What Cathy didn’t mention is that we began this project using her photos and she suddenly put it all on hold. That happens on occasion, but her reason was that she didn’t believe the quality of her photos was good enough, so she took the time to upgrade her equipment and skills before she was ready to resume. While her original photos were nice, the end product benefited from her patience, persistence, and commitment to quality. Well done! Thank you, Cathy, for your business, trust, and for sharing your story here. 🙂
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with self-publishing, traditional, and/or hybrid. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do again—or not? Please share in the comments.
Share this Post