For the first half of my life, I was a pleaser. I really, really needed everyone to like me – even if (especially if?) I didn’t like them. Then I hit my late 20s/30s, started training hard and eating right, joined the Roller Derby, got a few tattoos, and finally went through a teenage rebellious phase that I suspect will last the rest of my life. Which is why, despite the fact that it might have been easier – at least in the short run – I decided to self-publish my cookbook Well Fed, instead of pursuing a traditional publisher.
The Big Guys
In 2005, I was very fortunate to get a book deal with Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for my book Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From The Track. I was over the moon! I put on my best rollergirl-author outfit and flew to Manhattan, then I got in a yellow taxi with my literary agent (!) and we rushed to a meeting with an editor on a nosebleed-high floor of a skyscraper near Rockefeller Plaza. It was like living a movie for a few days. But the glamour eventually faded to a realization that I was one itty-bitty cog in a giant machine that didn’t care about me so much. My ego loved saying “Simon & Schuster,” but the reality is that I was ultimately disappointed in the way my book was marketed, and I will most likely never see a royalty from the publication of my book. I swore if I ever tackled another book project – and after the pain of pushing out that first one, I wasn’t sure I would – it would be a project Dave and I did together, and we would do it on our terms.
When Dave and I committed to the idea that we could do a cookbook, we decided the only way it would make sense was if we did it exactly the way we wanted to. It was going to be a labor of love (and pain, but mostly love) that would be smushed into evenings and weekends. I have a dayjob at a web agency that I can’t retire quite yet, so writing, photographing, producing, editing, and publishing Well Fed was going to happen around the edges of “real life.” We knew it would be challenging, but we also fell in love with the idea of creating our ideal book. A work that would make us proud, with no compromises, and not pesky number-crunchers getting in the way of a good idea. Finally, after two decades of bending to the whims of clients, we were going to form a team of creative people we could trust and let everybody just do their thing.
And so we did!
We researched the options for self publishing and immersed ourselves in learning more about our respective parts of the process. Dave consumed photography books and bonded with his camera, tripod, reflectors, and the idiosyncracies of light. I read as much as I could find about good food writing and how to construct useful recipes, then I started banging pots and pans. We invited Melissa and Dallas of Whole9 to write the foreword, and they did us one better, giving us the Whole30-approved blessing when they saw the recipes. We enlisted Kathleen Shannon to sprinkle her special brand of fairy dust on the graphic design, and recruited a handful of copyeditors and proofreaders to make sure the end result would be as polished as possible. And then we all worked relentlessly for six months.
Now the result of our efforts is in the hands of CreateSpace, a self-publishing and distribution service that’s part of Amazon.
There are several advantages to self publishing, in general, and to CreateSpace in particular. Here are the things that swayed our decision.
1. Creative control. With CreateSpace, we’ve had complete control over the creative process. I suppose that’s a double-edged sword because there’s no one to stop us from doing something stupid, but it’s been challenging and rewarding to trust our instincts. Sink or swim, it’s all us, and that feels good.
2. Print on demand! Because CreateSpace prints on demand, as soon as we flip the switch, you’ll be able to buy the printed version of the book on my site and on Amazon. There’s no pesky pre-order period, and the book will never be out of print. It’s just there, waiting for you, whenever you want it. Cool, right?!
3. We’re the publisher. We own all the rights to the content, now and forever, which means we can do whatever we want with it. For now, that means we can make a printed, softcover edition and a PDF version available, so you can pick your price and your format.
4. No corporate rules and templates. Most cookbooks follow a fast-and-easy-to-populate design template. It makes a lot of sense from a production stand point, but we wanted something more handcrafted. By doing it our way, we were able to create recipes that look like this (click to see it in all its glory):
Plus, we have front-of-the-book stuff that’s just how we hoped it would be, a cover that makes our hearts sing, an index we love, and a table of contents that looks like this:
Release Date – December 6?
There’s one bit of not great, but not really bad news… the only hitch in this master plan is that we’re still sorting out the publication date. If everything goes smoothly over the next few days, Well Fed will be available early next week – and we will all celebrate with gusto. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to send all your positive energy our way so that our press check today and tomorrow is as smooth as a fresh batch of Sunshine Sauce.
If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, you should totally do that! I’ll keep you updated on all the latest news – and should have some freebie, downloadable, fun thingy-ma-bobs exclusively for newsletter subscribers soon.
OK! Commence sending good vibes now. 3-2-1-GO!
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