Baking a book from scratch...

I'm not new to writing, but I'm new to this self-publishing game. Really new. A few people have asked me how Items May Have Shifted: How to Travel With Your Baby and Toddler came about, so I sat down and recalled the process onto the keyboard. It was illuminating, to say the least!

if you are interested in the kamikaze approach to writing and publishing, here is the timeline for this book. Get comfortable. It's only a few months, but there's a lot of activity.

 Steve and Shanon Lawson (2008)

Steve and Shanon Lawson (2008)

2012: The idea is thrown around, and I make a few half-assed blog postings on Tumblr. Get some positive feedback and people suggest I put it into a book. Then boys hit Terrible Twos, and project gets abandoned (what a shocker). 

March 2015: Decide to pick it up again now that children are sentient beings with rational brains (sort of). I worked on a brief proposal and got in touch with my agent from long days ago (when I was trying to write romance back at the turn of the century—literally). Agent retiring, tried to find a new agent with no luck. Bah. Focus my energies on ways to use my power tools while my husband is out of town.

January 2016: Get together with a close friend who is a fabulous author in multiple genres (after three years of thwarted plans to see each other) and have good conversation about writing and the new world of self/indie publishing. It occurs to me that self-publishing might actually be the best venue for this project, and I decide to give it a shot.

February 2016: Join self-publish Yahoo group and start doing research. Get a handful of ebooks on self-publishing and start Googling away, and start actually researching and WRITING the book.

March 2016: Get busy. In addition to researching and writing, I realize that my ideal launch date is in less than three months. Holy crap. 

  • Create email accounts for the book and my penname
  • Build website for the book (and purchase additional domain extensions)
  • Build a website for my penname
  • Take advantage of a great deal on Vellum to help me with formatting
  • Take an online course on self-publishing with Meredith Bond (thanks, Merry!)
  • Join Twitter (something I said I would never do) and set up Facebook pages
  • Research and start drafting cover designs in Word with help of some templates, download and research fonts, ebook cover design in general.
  • Research ebook branding, positioning, launch and promo strategies, try to get my head around all the moving parts!
  • Register with several search engines but ultimately fail to get my head around SEO
  • Only travel a few days this month but a bit distracted by personal crisis.

April 2016: still researching and writing the book!

  • Apply for ISBN numbers.
  • Open accounts with KDP, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Createspace and Goodreads.
  • Write press releases, bios, blurbs, still playing with cover design
  • Research metrics and create spreadsheet of the top 100 bloggers and meta sites in the book’s target categories—mostly mommy and family travel bloggers.
  • E-mail bloggers asking if they’d be interested in giving me their honest opinion on the book, and offering myself for guest blogs, Q&As, or whatever might provide benefit to their audiences.
  • Add to spreadsheet: book review sites, other targeted media (such as specialty magazines, forums, etc.), and contact some. Keeping records of when emails are sent and replies received.
  • Build list of resources and links to add to book’s website.
  • Already doing impromptu promo! Talk to airline personnel I know about chatting up the book to passengers, talk to passengers on various flights I’m on, talk to people at baby stores who are looking for travel gear, etc. Hand out book’s website address like Halloween candy in a rich neighbourhood.
  • Still playing with cover and writing!
  • Start working on laptop in car while boys are in junior kindergarten.
  • More social media activity (but not as much as I should!)
  • Inspired by all this activity, decide to dust off old romance manuscripts and plan out editing and publication schedule for them and new short stories (which I’m calling “quickies”).
    • Decide on romance pen name, get email address
    • Build romance pen name website
    • Start outlining and writing some shorts, drafting cover ideas and branding!

Oh, did I mention that I also run my husband’s medical practice and consulting business? This month I also put together the personal and corporate taxes, continued his invoicing and bookkeeping, scheduled his travel and other commitments, arranged his medical board recertifications, submitted his patient billing, blah blah blah. 

May 2016: Yep, still writing! Boys start Little League, and I consider taking one of their bats to my head.

  • Started the month on the road! Five days with DH and kids on Vancouver Island and barely touched computer!
  • Further inspired, plan more non-fiction books and start putting together real GANTT type calendar for next year of juggling writing, production, and promotion of long and short non-fiction books, and long and short romances.
  • Create master spreadsheet of writing and self-publishing activity, scheduling, sales (hopefully!), budgets.
  • Create another spreadsheet, this one detailing the "costs" so far of self-publishing. So far the most significant cost is to my family. Boo.
  • Explore Trello and KindleSpy
  • Play with Vellum to upload and tweak drafts of travel book and a romance novel (looks purty)
  • Discover Canva! Create cover for first full-length romance release, then decide to use Canva to redo travel book cover. Also make sell sheet and promo posters.
  • Still researching ideal positioning and launch strategies!
  • Head shot finally done (totally procrastinated on that one). My assistant forces me to wear useless fake eyelashes. Most of my shots are of me smirking in preparation for killing her later.
  • Seriously? I want to soft launch in a few weeks? I’m not FINISHED WRITING IT YET! Holy crap. Frustrated that writing is getting in the way of all this business planning.
  • Tweak websites, attempt to ramp up social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest).
  • Obsessively analyze all comparable titles, their categories, release dates, reviews, and sales. Realize that I must be crazy for trying to do this since there’s already stuff out there, but convince myself that my book is different—at least that’s what my press release and cover copy says.
  • Figure out pricing, categories, and release strategy (I think!)
  • Plan out, um, next year of writing and publication in both non-fiction and fiction. Giant dry erase calendar and coloured markers in use.
  • DH still not entirely sure WTF I’m doing all the time. Kids acting up because my writing books about parenting is getting in the way of actually parenting.
  • Decide on final cover (only 10 days before planned soft launch, that’s not bad)!
  • Order business cards to hand out on upcoming trips and to unsuspecting consumers.
  • Prepare Q&A for potential interview questions about myself and book (if anyone cares to ask).
  • Mothertrucker, I should really finish WRITING THE BOOK!
  • Agh. More family crisis travel less than a week before Europe. Should also probably plan packing for whole family.
  • Okay, okay, I give up. Stop tweaking in Word, upload and tweak in Vellum instead.
  • Finalize ISBNs for print on demand editions (Createspace and Ingram Spark).
  • Send ARCs to interested reviewers for hopefully positive editorial reviews.
  • Prepare material for Amazon author page (for after it’s uploaded to Kindle). I sound way cooler than I really am.
  • Create promotional flyers/posters and sell sheets for buyers and distributors (will look for pigs in the sky in July).
  • Finalize press releases for distribution through PRweb and PR Newswire.
  • Research websites and blogs devoted to ebook promotion opportunities, especially non-fiction.
  • Totally redesign njskaye.com (thank you, Crystal Kook!)
  • Create Facebook pages for NJS Kaye and Nikky Kaye.
  • Design and create cover for print on demand paperback, format interior for Createspace until my eyes are crossed.
  • Damn it, why did I do edits in Vellum? Now I have to figure out what to change in Word as well and I can’t back-convert it! Argh!
  • It’s May 20?! Leaving in three days for Iceland and France, prefer to be soft launched by then!
  • May 23: Launch on Kobo
  • May 23-June 2: In Europe. Promised kids I would not work until after they are in bed. Most nights I am asleep before they are. While away, wrangle with Createspace over cover bleed issues, and do stealth promo by leaving dozens of promotional business cards for the book in family/baby changing rooms in major international airports.

June 2016: okay, yeah, we are only five days in at the time of this blog entry...

  • Waiting for Createspace paperback proof. Book trim is 5.25" x 8" and clocks in at 142 pages.
  • Submit to iBooks. They tell me that my first name can’t possibly be NJS. Well, duh! Wait for them to decide if they’ll accept the initials as is.
  • Create Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest ads/promos in Canva, search for tie-in material for posting.
  • Wait for editorial reviews from bloggers who received ARCs
  • Write guest blogs and sponsored posts.
  • Bite the bullet and upload to Amazon. 100% certain that this is the worst thing I’ve ever written and I’m a complete fool for even trying this. See things I already want to change. FML. 
  • Get back to writing next three books at same time. Talk to doctor about upping ADD medication.
  • Create Amazon Author Page. Create Goodreads page. Chew off all the skin inside my mouth.
  • Submit book to multiple targeted (and pre-researched) book review and advertising sites.
  • Send out press releases through PRweb and PR Newswire and to local media.
  • Post promo posters at public libraries, rec centres and gyms, places where Mom and Baby groups hang out.
  • More social media promotion. Beg friends to share with their giant lists on Facebook. Ask friendly/responsive bloggers about sharing with their mailing lists.
  • Plan to make YouTube video at Dollarama for sourcing/improvising B STUPID list.
  • More travel planned for the last week of June!

And that brings us up to today. I need cake.

If you still think that writing and launching a book within a few months (without outsourcing anything) is a good idea, then you might want to get on my mailing list for news of my upcoming book, Just Give Me a Minute: Teaching Delayed Gratification in an Instant World!

Have you self-published? What was the most important part of your learning curve in the beginning?