A long time blogging friend of Heidi’s and one of my newest and dearly trusted blogging friends, please welcome Blogger Babes
member Superstar Kathy with this incredibly informative, detailed, inspirational guest post!
I was quickly walking though a bookstore in Florence, Italy. Eyes squinting, scouring up and down the shelves. Finally making it to the cookbooks section, I scrunched my face close up to the shelves and boom, there it was. My eyes went super wide and a huge smile rolled onto my face when I saw it. My book. 365 Vegan Smoothies had been translated into Italian, and I was hoping to spot a copy while on our vacation to Italy. And when I did it felt surreal. Exciting moments like that make all the stress and hard work that goes into writing a book totally worth it. For me, anyways.
But let’s jump back a bit. A few years ago, I received an email from a book agent who needed an author for a very specific book. The book was a cookbook with 365 vegan smoothie recipes, and apparently back then, when you googled “vegan smoothies,” I was one of the main websites that popped up. Call it luck, call it a perfect match, but from that day on I was on the road to becoming an author.
In 2013 my first book 365 Vegan Smoothies came out, published by Avery/Penguin. And in just a few days, April 28th, my second cookbook comes out, Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. And while I adore my first book to pieces, I am a true smoothie loving girl at heart, this second book feels like an even bigger accomplishment. The over 220 recipes in this book (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and more) are my favorites from my entire 7 year blogging career, as well as my entire culinary life. Writing a book takes a big piece of your soul, your heart and your spirit. So once it hits bookstore shelves, you really do feel as though you have given birth to something. I have always heard authors call their books their “babies” – and I always thought it was a bit odd – but now I totally get it.
So if YOU want to dive into the crazy-beautiful world of blogger-turned-author, here are my ten tips.
1. Get an Agent.
You COULD cold call, aka cold write publishers with your book proposal. I tried that a few times around. And it always left me very unsatisfied. I highly suggest you seek out an agent or someone skilled that can represent you. Your agent will not only help get your proposal’s foot in the door but they will offer advice and most importantly, help you negotiate your contract. They will also be there to “have your back” if anything goes awry during the book writing process.
2. Have a Killer Proposal.
Your book proposal is like gold. Literally. It is what the publishers will base your entire book on. And also how much they are willing to pay to contract it with you. Make sure it effectively communicates your idea, the tone and the content of the entire book. If you plan on having photos in your published book, place TONS of amazing photos in your proposal. Publishers obviously love words, but they love images too! For both my books, I did all the photography so photos for me were easy. But if you will be hiring someone else to do the photos for your book, you may want to hire someone to take photos specifically for the proposal. They may or may not be chosen by the publisher to be offered to continue on and do the photos for the book.
3. Choose a Publisher Who Fits Your Goals.
The publishing house world is smaller than you think, especially with all the merges that have happened. So that makes each publisher quite distinct in its personality. Some publishing houses are well known for creating super quirky, crafty and creative books that can easily wiggle their way into niche book buying venues like Kitson and Urban Outfitters, while other publishers are more classic in their delivery.
My advice to you is to go into stores where you want to see your book. What publishers are on the shelves? If you want to be in Anthropologie’s small but growing book section, check out the publishers who are already there. How about Williams and Sonoma? Who takes the space on those shelves? Also, who are your favorite authors in your target category? What publishers did they go with? Do your research and choose wisely! Ask questions and gather as much information as possible before you choose a publishing house.
Note, this is assuming that you are given several offers from different houses on your book. If you only have one or two, you may not be able to be as picky, obviously.
4. How Much is Your Time Worth to Write a Book?
Before you start this entire process, have a number in mind. A minimum number that you need to see on that contract for you to want to take the time and effort and journey towards writing a book.
I know some authors who say, “I do not care. I will take anything, I just want a book!” I always cringe when I hear that because book writing takes A LOT out of you! And it takes a huge chunk of your life. Time you could be spending doing other projects that may produce more money. So you should be financially rewarded for your book writing efforts.
If you are not offered enough money, you may want to walk away from a book deal this time around. Especially if you are a blogger, you never know how your brand may grow and evolve in a few years, making you more valuable to publishers. If you receive an offer that does not fit your minimum amount number, know when to walk away and come back to this later.
4. Be Able to Log Off.
Once you have that book contract signed, you just have one task in front of you: “writing the book.” You will probably feel overwhelmed, scared and stressed. It is exciting to “dive into writing” but the book writing world can be a bit unfamiliar to most bloggers-turn-authors. Bloggers are used to juggling multiple things at once. Writing posts, tweeting, instagramming and managing press all at the same time. But for writing a book you need to acquire a new skill: turning everything off. Logging off. Being “in the zone” and focusing on one thing only for long periods of time. Getting words on those pages.
For me, it felt like I was back in college writing the biggest research paper of my life.
You have to take 1-2 or more days out of your week and call them “book days.” Curl up in your favorite writing spot and just start typing. Words. Lots of words will come. And then you will edit them. And re-write. And your book will grow and evolve and thrive. But the only way to put your whole soul into your book is by logging off of everything else for a while. If you need to get out of your house and write at a Starbucks, a friends house, or another “not at home” location, go for it. All writers have their own quirks.
5. Get Organized.
No matter how large your book it, you need to be organized. Books have beginnings, middles, and ends – even non-fiction books. Having a book outline is key to starting your work.
Once my page counts started getting into the 400s, I started to freak out. You have to go back to page ten to check something and then back to page fifty for something else and then back to 400 to continue where you left off. It is night and day compared to writing a one page blogpost. So organization is key to keeping your book in order from the start. Start with your outline and table of contents and do not start writing until you are happy with their construction.
6. Expect Mistakes.
Mistakes will happen. You may need to wipe out entire chapters, fix one little thing or letter or word on hundreds of your pages, or you may even completely forget to write an entire section and need to go back and add it in. Book writing does not happen in one swift move. You write and you re-write and you edit and you edit and you edit. Not just on your own but with your editors at the publishing company! So not only will you discover your own mistakes, but the editors will too. It can be humbling.
7. Play Nice With Others.
This is probably the most significant part about transitioning from blogger to author. For the first time in maybe a long time you will not be working for yourself, on your own time, on your own terms. Now you have deadlines to meet, people to correspond with about your work, and editors who will be looking over every letter, ever period, comma, exclamation point, every sentence and thought written in your work. Every page will be read and analyzed before your public gets to see it.
If this is a challenge for you, you will need to figure out how to work well with others. Also, you will probably need to make a few creative compromises when it comes to elements of you book, wording on the cover, or even the cover images. You are not writing a book alone, you are on a team.
8. Balancing Blogging While Book Writing.
It is a good idea, once that contract has been signed and you are well on your way with writing the book, to announce to your fans that you may be a bit less “online” and a bit less frequent in blog posting for a few months because you are writing a book. They will be excited for you, so embrace that and enjoy it. Then once your book release date draws near, your fans will be even more excited because they will know how long and hard you have been working on this big book writing dream of yours!
9. On Burn Out: Do not let it happen.
When I started writing my first book, I was writing full time for my blog as well as several other online magazines, writing and photographing. Adding one more thing to my schedule seemed a bit insane but I was sure I could manage it. Long days, staying in my pajamas until well after lunch and never leaving the house for days on end, zoning in and out on my computer and having aching muscles from long photography shoots finally caught up with me and I crashed. I wasn’t sleeping enough, I wasn’t taking any time to exercise or to get outside and enjoy the sun, I simply was not taking care of myself. So something had to change. My answer: I left one of the companies I was working for on the side and started saying NO to new projects, even if I really wanted to do them. I crawled my way back from burnout and I am VERY aware of not letting that happen to me again.
Learning how to say no was a big part in all that.
10. Your Book Will Not Sell Itself!
Unless you are an A-list celebrity with an amazing tell-all, Oprah, a previous best-selling author, or someone with a very expensive book PR company on your team, you must know one thing: your book will not sell itself. And your publishing company will indeed help, but they will not be doing the dirty work, so to speak. Pounding the pavement and doing press for you. Your book coming out is a BIG deal, but getting most of the press for that event will be up to YOU. Go to your loyal audience first and foremost! Collaborate with brands who you have worked with in the past. If you have the budget, hire a PR firm for a few months. You may want to organize a blog tour of your cookbook with your favorite blogger friends. Go to your online friends for help! Organize a book launch party. All this requires a lot of dedication, passion, and hard work. So be prepared for this part of writing a book!
The work does NOT end when you turn in that final approved manuscript.
Good luck with your book writing dreams! It is an amazing feeling to hold your book in your hands and be able to bring that finished product to your blog fans and the general public!
You can buy Kathy’s new book in stores April 28th, available for pre-order now (with bonuses!).