Wouldn't it be nice to see your own recipes, technical knowledge or stylistic guidance in a form of a book? How about getting it illustrated with your very own photos as well? I am pretty sure that you already dreamed about publishing your own book featuring your own images... but it is not soo easy to get familiar with the publishing process before the opportunity is actually granted.
In this episode of the 'Let's Talk About...' blog post series you will learn more about what it takes to publish your own book through the first-hand experience of a real author, including the less obvious elements of the process as well.
If you are interested in learning more about camera angles, manual settings on your camera, composition, food styling tricks and tips, or even business practices you can check the previous episodes of this popular blog series by clicking here.
Where to start?
First-time authors are having many dilemmas and questions around publishing their very own book, so I wanted to provide you with a compass that gives you some pointers on how to get closer to your dream, and get your book published.
Later in this post, my professional guest Julia will also share the insights of the process of publishing her second book with the editor she already worked together with, so you can see the similarities and differences between both scenarios.
Research in the publishing industry & decide on the topic
Read publications in your genre to discover not only the biggest authors, but also others work on the same field. Learn what type of books people are buying. This initial research will be an eye-opener to what type of content publishers might be interested in and also will help to foresee if there is a gap which your book could successfully fill. Trends might sound tempting, but jumping on risky path as they can be over before your own book hits the shelves. On the other hand, there are certain genres and niche topics, that people are genuinely interested in over and over again.
Finalise your manuscript & ask for feedback
As there is nobody queuing for their manuscripts (yet), first-time publishers need to put their manuscript together in advance.
Your book not necessarily need to conquer the top selling materials in your genre, but it needs to be interesting and enjoyable for your target audience. Dig up your ideas that you saved over the past years for this project (check out the Exercise chapter to create a good system), extend them with freshly written copy, each chapter needs to makes sense but do not forget that the whole material must have a great flow too.
Once your manuscript is ready, reach out to so called 'beta readers', who are selected people who will provide you with valuable feedback on your work. Try to find someone, who is part of your target audience, or even an industry professional. Listen to their opinion and pointers, consider if there is anything that need to be changed, if there is something specific that multiple people mentioned. Self-edit your manuscript accordingly and if needed.
If you are unsure of the end result, you can also consider hiring a copy-editor (mostly focusing on spelling, grammar, and punctuation etc.) or a line-editor (mostly focusing on your writing style and in order to the best results, they apply more in-depth changes) to go through your manuscript and bring it into the next level.
Consider if you need to hire an agent
When you are planning to work with publishing houses, it is good to acknowledge early on, that some of them will not even consider working with you if you do not have an agent, but there are also many examples, when you can work directly with the publisher without representation. Self-publishing is also very popular nowadays.
The decision of hiring an agent is yours to evaluate, I just wanted to mention it, as something to consider.
If you decide that you want to get represented, reach out to the agent with a pitch of your book. If all goes well, the agent will request to read your manuscript and if they like it, you will start discussing the details of your representation then enter into an agreement. Many times it is not the case that you will start working with the first agent you speak to, so be prepared to talk to multiple agents before you succeed.
Be prepared, that agents will take active part in some of the editing process and they might suggest smaller or bigger changes to your manuscript in order to make your book more sellable.
Working with a publisher will more likely to secure a spot of your book at the bookstore shelves vs. when self-publishing and selling it mostly through Amazon or your webshop, and seriously fight for those places on the bookstore-shelves, so it all depends on your goals, what path to choose and where to focus your efforts.
Reach out to publishers with your manuscript
Pitch your book to publishers yourself or if you have an agent, this will be their task, and negotiate the best possible deal.
This process has many junctions and each publishing process can take various directions, so there is no direct playbook that will allow you to do this on autopilot or grant you success in each step. Believe in your idea and if necessary, be ready for shaping it for success while keeping the narrative genuine and honest, just as it comes from the bottom of your heart.
Exercise: Create Your Own Brain-Dump System
When it comes to ideas, it is true in general, that if you keep them in your head only, you can easily lose them forever. To stop this unfortunate tendency, from now on have a platform where you can extract what you have in mind -including the ideas that you can later arrange into your own book-.
Basic steps to create and maintain your own Brain-Dump System:
- Select a platform that will be the home of everything that you will need later on from ideas and goals to dreams. This can be a paper-based journal, digital notepad or a versatile project management software. The most important that it must be a space that you can access immediately, at any time and any place. If you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, or you are in the middle of the forest without signal, you Bran-Dump System must be ready for your thoughts.
- When you have a home for your ideas, you need to think about organising them. For this, you need to come up with a way where you can assign notes to different categories. Think about the main categories and set up a colour code system with highlighters, use stickers, doodle, add icons, create digital category labels that you can easily filter, or whatever works for you the best.
- Re-visit your notes time-to-time and when you decide to make one of your dreams come true, break your ideas down into smaller, actionable tasks. When it comes to bigger dreams, it is difficult to control all aspects most of the times, but you can always evaluate what you can do to achieve in order to get closer to your dreams.
If you have a strong ambition of becoming an author of your own book, having your thoughts organised in a Brain-Dump System will make your process easier and it will make it more clear what is still missing before you can proceed with a proposal for a potential publishing house.
I invited a professional photographer friend who recently completed the publishing process of her own book, the Ultimate Guide to Food Styling. Welcome, Julia Konovalova on board!
Who are you and what is your photography specialty?
I am Julia Konovalova and I am a food photographer in Toronto. I started my journey in content creation as a food blogger and published a cookbook in 2018 titled The Ultimate One-Pan Oven Cookbook. In the last couple of years I mostly specialise in food photography. My signature style is dark and moody that I mostly share on my Instagram account. But I photograph in different styles for different clients. I also have a food styling book that is going to be published in March 2023 and it is called The Ultimate Guide to Food Styling.
How did your knowledge turned into a book?
I had an idea for a food photography book about 6 months before my publisher approached me. That idea has been at the back of my head for months and I kept going back and forth between actually doing a pitch or forgetting about it. Then one day I got an email from the editor I worked with on my cookbook and they asked me if I’d be interested in a food styling book. After a short conversation it turned out that they wanted pretty much exactly what I had in my head in the past few months. So, it felt like it was meant to be. Over the course of writing an outline and working on the book, the concept changed and evolved slightly but it still stayed true to my idea.
When I worked on my original cookbook, I asked my publisher about the writing process and she told me that it was up to me. She could be really involved with lots of checkins or she could be hands off and let me do my work on my own. I chose the latter option. For this new Food Styling book I followed the same approach.
I wrote a table of content which acted as an outline and then just worked one chapter at a time. Sometimes I wrote first and then photographed. Sometimes I took photos and then wrote afterwards. It was a long and tedious and really intense process. Unlike writing a cookbook, where you mostly concentrate on recipe creation and testing with most of the writing being instructional, this food styling book was more about lessons and explanations, so a lot more writing than I have ever done in my life.
What are the main stages of the publishing process?
Different publishing houses and editors will have different experiences I suppose. For me, here are the main stages. Some of them are quite short and quick and some are longer:
- Initial conversation with the editor.
- Getting photography approved. Some authors choose to photograph their own books and some will have a photographer hired.
- Signing of a contract. This could be as easy as them sending it to you and you signing it or more complicated with a few rounds of going back and forth. For my first book with this publisher, it took us a few weeks to iron out the details of the contract. For the second book it was easy as they used the original one that we already were happy with.
- Getting the outline approved.
- Actual writing process.
- Sending the manuscript and photo to the editor.
- Feedback and changes from the editor.
- Copyediting with changes and approval from you, the author.
- Digital design with comments and changes and approval from all parties.
- Long stage of getting preorders and marketing. - This is where I am right now with the Food Styling book.
- Publication day!!
Were there any unexpected tasks or surprising requirements during the publishing process?
Yes. For my second book it wasn’t surprising anymore but still something I really worried about. Endorsements and testimonials. My publisher has book designs with little endorsement blurbs on the back cover of the book. So you, as an author, need to reach out to professionals and peers in your field to get the book endorsed before the book is actually published. You want not just a friend to say that the book is good. You want someone that everyone knows and respects to say that. And it’s quite difficult and stressful finding those people.
What advice would you give to wannabe-authors?
Unless you are a huge big name and have a really big social media following, writing a book isn’t really about money. It’s more about you wanting to write a book and have it published. You need to sell thousands of copied to start making money and most people won’t be able to do that.