Last night was the Sydney book launch for Business & Baby on Board at The White Horse Hotel, Surry Hills.
It was a lovely, intimate event that started many inspiring and interesting conversations. And I got to meet some lovely online friends in real life, including my publisher, Charlotte Harper, and author stablemate Anna Maguire.
Here’s a copy of the speech I prepared (and then didn’t stick to).
Thank you for coming along to help me launch my book, Business & Baby on Board, tonight.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen many of you (and some I’ve only ever met online), so it’s really special that you are here with me tonight. Thank you.
The idea for this book started germinating after I had Noah and was working from home around his (very short) sleeps. Noah turns eight in May, so you can see there’s been a big gap between the idea and the book.
Since that first kernel of an idea for a book about running a business around children started forming I’ve moved to Tasmania, re-established my business, Strawberry Communications, in a new state, completed an Honours degree, started my PhD and both my boys have started school. I wrote and published Business & Baby on Board in between all that and sometimes I feel like it took forever!
Of course it didn’t, and I was just being an impatient author, so I wanted to share a bit of my writing and publishing story with you tonight.
Why did I self-publish?
When I left full-time work to become a mum more almost eight years ago I thought it would be nice to freelance while my son slept. Luckily for me I had some friends in the industry and they passed work my way. As I became more confident in my role as a mum and a freelancer I started writing more about my own experiences as a working mum, weaving my stories into conversational articles about time management, social media marketing and me time. These were well received and several people suggested I take the content and turn it into a book.
Initially I dismissed the idea, but the seed had been planted and I started thinking about what it would be like to write a book about starting and running a business while also bringing up children. I thought about who I’d like to interview and the names Janine Allis from Boost Juice, Carolyn Creswell from Carman’s Fine Foods and Naomi Simson from RedBalloon popped into my head. These women all inspired me by what they had achieved as business mums. So the die was cast and I was committed then.
It took just over four years to bring Business & Baby on Board to fruition. Once I had interviewed most of the 21 inspirational women from the book I put together a book proposal, to make myself treat it like a project and also on the off chance I might approach a publisher. I did end up approaching two mainstream publishers and both loved my writing and the women I featured. They had my sample chapters assessed by editors and were keen to go ahead, but the process fell down in both cases when it came to how to market the book. It wasn’t a parenting book, and it wasn’t a business book. Where did it fit? Was there a market for it?
I knew there was a market for it because the market had asked me to write the book in the first place, but that wasn’t enough for the publishers. They turned it down. I was disappointed, but then I saw the opportunity these rejections presented. I could self publish the book, finish writing it the way I wanted, keep the title I wanted (“Business & Baby on Board” was not inspirational enough) and learn how to publish a book. If it was going to happen, it was going to be me who made it happen. And self publishing isn’t about people paying to have their name in print anymore, or putting together something they are going to flog at a sales conference. The stigma around self publishing has been removed, a bit like online dating, and it’s now seen as a legitimate method to share your words.
I spent months researching self publishing options while finishing my manuscript. I looked the pros and cons of print on demand versus printing in bulk, printing overseas versus printing in Australia, physically printing versus publishing electronically and project managing the process myself versus handing it over to someone else to manage.
My first draft was 60,000 words, which initially I thought was a good length. However I then thought about my target market and realised the women I was writing for were unlikely to have time to read a long book. They wanted answers quickly and so I cut 25,000 words to create the content that has now been published. Each chapter tells the story of one business mum’s road to entrepreneurship as well as tapping into their particular area of expertise. The book covers the good and bad of starting and running a business, with added information about doing it around children.
Once I had my 35,000 word manuscript I handed it over to a professional editor and sent each chapter to the relevant interviewee for fact checking. Their minor changes were incorporated into the next draft and then reviewed by myself and my editor again. She also produced a style guide so my book designer and printer could see how words and phrases should be shown.
Next on the list was the cover design, which had been in the works for a few months by the time I finished my book. Two cover designs were produced and I crowdsourced my networks to see which one was most popular. Once I had the edited manuscript and the final cover, the internal designer set to work to create a book to match the cover. The final step was handing everything over to the printer, who then produced a proof copy of the book. The book was just what I wanted so I pressed print on the first print run of 500 copies of Business & Baby on Board and I’m pleased to say I have less than 200 of those left to sell.
It took me a long time to decide which way to go, but after speaking with some friends who had been through the process themselves I decided I could manage the publishing process myself – and I’m glad I did. I now know the process from beginning to end, from the book conception through to opening the box of printed books.
So how did I pay for all this? Crowdfunding!
Many writers are taking the plunge and trying crowdfunding to help them realise their publishing dreams. Crowdfunding is where you ask people (‘the crowd’) to support your project, usually in exchange for rewards or perks. I had a mix of rewards from a bookmark for a $5 pledge, to a signed copy of the book for $25 pledges, right through to coupon ads in the back of the book for businesses pledging $200 and a one-day personal PR consultation with me for a $500 pledge.
I used the crowdfunding platform Pozible to raise the money I needed to self publish my book Business & Baby on Board. My campaign covered the funds needed for editing, cover design and printing. I contributed the rest of the funding, and showed I was doing this because I wanted my supporters to know I had committed money too.
The campaign was a success (in fact it was overfunded), and I learnt a lot along the way.
This is no time to be a shrinking violet
For a successful crowdfunding campaign you need to either be known by millions around the world and have a ready-made audience like Seth Godin, or be willing to tell everyone you know (and everyone they know) about the project and ask them to support it. One way of looking at it is that I was creating an audience for my book before it was even published.
Don’t give up
Those who followed my campaign will know the first time I ran it I missed out on making my funding target by just $320! After speaking with some friends and Pozible I decided to run it again with a few tweaks and this made all the difference the second time around.
And here is the fairytale ending to my story. In running my crowdfunding campaign my book came to the attention of electronic publisher Editia. Charlotte, who is here tonight, saw it while fact-checking Anna’s (who is also here) book CrowdfundIt! She asked to see my sample chapters and loved it so published the ebook version of Business & Baby on Board. This meant I got the best of both worlds – I know what it’s like to self publish, but I also know what it’s like to be an author for a publishing house.
PS We decided to call my cover girl business mum Babette. What do you think?