Saturday, February 2, 2013

How I Got My Book Published at Iguana Books

Spurred on by repeated questions from friends and family about how my husband Rich and I were able to achieve early retirement at age 48 without the aid of a company pension, I decided the best way to share our experiences would be to write a book about it.

As it turns out, writing the manuscript for "Retired at 48" was the easy part. Since we had spent so many years planning, researching, and executing the ideas and strategies for our retirement, writing the book became just a matter of organizing our thoughts and documenting what we did.  It took about six weeks to complete, writing on a part time basis whenever we were not busy doing other fun activities.  Rich was my first editor, tirelessly reading and re-reading chapters, providing valuable feedback and suggesting ideas for new topics.

The difficult part was figuring out how to get the work published, without spending an unreasonable sum of money that exceeded our discretionary budget for the year.  Approaching the larger publishing firms would probably be futile, as they generally do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from an unknown writer who is not represented by an established agent. I attended the book and magazine festival "Word on the Street" to get more information about publishing and self publishing.  Booths and pavilions sponsored by various publishing firms featured author talks and readings.  The Scribendi Wordshop Marquee provided exactly what I was looking for–lectures on writing and publishing.

At a talk called "How to Get Published in Perilous Times", I learned about Iguana Books.  This is a small Toronto-based publishing firm that actually encourages the submission of unsolicited manuscripts. If upon review, they find the manuscript to be of acceptable quality, they will provide an estimate for how much it would cost to edit and produce the book as an ebook, as well as optionally in print format for print on demand sales.

It is up to the author to fund the creation of the book in the desired formats, either by writing a cheque, through fund raising or by soliciting advanced book orders.  Without the financial risks of providing a monetary advance for a book, or the costs of carrying any inventory when selling a book, Iguana Books is able to offer a larger royalty than many other publishers.  Iguana Book's standard contract offers the author 85% royalties on the net sales of each ebook and 10% for each print book.  Obviously, I am motivated to try to sell more ebooks!

Scribendi, the sponsor for the talks at this pavilion, is an organization that provides professional editing and proofreading services. They offer a free 1500 word edit of your manuscript as a promotional trial of their work. I decided to take the opportunity to have the first few pages of my manuscript professionally edited before attempting to submit it for review to Iguana Books.  I figured it was important to try to impress right from the start, so that the reviewer would keep reading.

My efforts paid off, as shortly after I submitted my manuscript, I received an email back from the editor of Iguana Books.  Not only was he interested in publishing my book, but he made the comment that "This is the best-written, best-organized unsolicited manuscript I can remember seeing."

The contract negotiations began to determine how much it would cost me to pay for the creation of the book.  I pondered the options of fund raising or trying to solicit advanced orders.  Ultimately, since my book did not require that much editing, the cost was manageable and I decided to fund the project myself.  I will be thrilled if I can at least make back my initial investment.  But even if I don't, this was an fun and worthwhile experience.  I slotted the expense under my entertainment budget for the year.

The process of polishing the draft manuscript included working with an editor.  The editor's first pass through the manuscript addressed any issues with grammar or sentence structure, requested clarification or expansion on some points and verified all my references as well as the validity of my URL links.  A couple more passes were required for minor tweaks.

I had to obtain written permission to use any images that were created through screen capture of websites that were included in the book.  It was necessary to adjust the dimensions and resolution of my images to meet the publishing requirements in the various formats, as well as converting them to black and white.  A designer created the look for the front cover of the book using a photograph that I provided, which was taken at our family island getaway.  I was requested to write a synopsis and an author's biography for the back cover.  Once all these steps were completed, the manuscript was ready to be produced as a print and an ebook.

An author's site and blog was created for me on the Iguana Books website where my book will be sold.  It will also be offered on major book seller sites such as Iguana Books Amazon, Chapters-Indigo and iBookstore.  Iguana Books will help to market my book to some degree, but I also need to work on self-promotion, which does not come natural to me.  The writing was the fun part; the selling and marketing aspect, not so much.

I wrote this book for the fun of it, because I enjoy writing.  It was not with the intent to start up a secondary career, so hopefully I have not accidentally "un-retired" myself.  I'm enjoying my retired life way too much for that!

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