Monday, August 20, 2012

Guest Post: Setting Self-publishing deadlines

Hello, everyone! Sarah invited me to write a guest post here and recommended I share with you some advice in regard to meeting self-publishing deadlines. Here goes!

I have been self-publishing little books since 2002. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and tried my hand at compiling my poems into books. These items are still available and I still sell a few copies of them every now and then on Amazon.

I have also always wanted to write professionally (or, you know, full time). A lot of things had supposedly prevented me from doing so; school, work, and other activities being my excuses. I spent many years trying to come up with an idea for my next book before I realized that that was my problem. I was waiting for the perfect opportunity as opposed to trying something out and seeing what I could do with it.

On Christmas Day, 2001, after having received nearly 100% food-related gifts, I came to realize that writing about food would likely be right up my alley. I had been pretty good at whipping up things in the kitchen on my own and figured that my knowledge and experience in the field of homemade vegan food might be beneficial to others. I started my blog, lizz delicious, on the 26th and began publishing recipes there very soon after.

While I was already imagining all of the business opportunities I could explore through my blog, I waited a few months before deciding to actually pursue anything. I had had many blogs before where I had publicized all sorts of projects I intended to make but I never finished most of them. If I was going to take writing any type of cookbook seriously I needed to be sure I could actually devote the time to developing recipes for it.

The time came to choose a direction and I picked something near and dear to my heart; tasty bevvies. There's a story behind my love of drinks, too. I moved to Austin, Texas with a friend in 2007 and became a sweet tea addict while living there. When I moved to West Virginia in 2008 to be with my partner, I was absolutely devastated that I couldn't find a good sweet tea anywhere. The only option was what they had at the local Subway restaurant and it wasn't very good. It tasted like artificial sweetener and kind of gave me a headache. So I set about developing my own recipe for "southern style" sweet tea. It took a few months and a lot of researching on the Internet, trying different teas and tea bag sized as well. I ultimately came up with the recipe I used in my book, Summertime Sippers, when we moved to Midland, Texas in 2009.

So, with that in mind, I planned out a little cookbook of drink recipes inspired by this experience. In January, I sat down and started on a list of drinks to try making. The classics were where I started; sweet tea, lemonade, limeade, and the like. I did some research on what's trendy in flavored lemonades, too. I'm a huge fan of lavender lemonade, but felt like there were some pretty good versions of that already out there. I looked into some more classic beverages and found orangeade. I took that formula and decided to try it using watermelon, too.

My original goal was to develop ten recipes. Keeping in mind that I worked full time and wouldn't have tons of freedom in my schedule, I mentally prepared myself and paced out my research and development. I started with three recipes in February. I knew the sangria recipes would take the longest to test, considering I hadn't made anything like that from scratch before, so I began testing those initially. I made three different batches before finding one that I actually liked. I then used that formula to devise a second type.

I essentially took a week and a half to develop each recipe. Some of them had to be made twice. Some of the recipes I tried didn't make it into the book at all.

The important thing was that I spent time that I would use to relax to develop my recipes. Ordinarily, I would spend my days off going grocery shopping, doing chores, playing with my dog, and spending time on the computer. It's not that I didn't have the time for writing the cookbook, it was that I needed to rearrange my schedule in order to take advantage of what time I did have so I could be in the kitchen.

For instance, some of those days I would go grocery shopping the day before, after work on my way home. The same thing with chores. I got into the habit of doing them before or after work. I did laundry while watching tv after dinner and walked the dog while my appliances were making food for me (gotta love rice cookers!) or making simple, low work dinners like baked potatoes.

I took notes on each recipe as I made them. Thank you, iPad! I have a stand for it and kept it upright on top of my coffee maker, writing down measurements for the ingredients and any changes I made while taste testing it. If I felt the recipe was finished, I entered it into the manuscript of the book as soon as I was able. This eliminated the extra step of compiling the recipes later on down the road.

Being so organized gave me more time for developing more recipes that I intended to have. The final week before my self-imposed deadline, I added two more recipes for a total of 15. All that was left was getting it on the Internet!

Having published using the Kindle marketplace before, I knew it would take some time for the digital version to be approved for sale. I sent it to the moderators early, and both Amazon and Barnes & noble had the ebook versions on the sites the day after the print and PDF versions were published. Not too shabby! Each channel requires different formatting,s o the week prior to May 1st was devoted to that in entirety. I sent the manuscript to Create Space (my chosen publishing service) early because I knew it would take a bout a week before Amazon would list it, then the Kindle and Nook versions, and then the PDF. Publishing through Lulu (which offers PDF downloads) is pretty much immediate, and it really is my preferred method, but people like options and it's important to provide them.

You WILL have difficulty converting your book for sale in the Kindle and Nook marketplaces. Unfortunately, I don't have much advice for you in that regard. I always seem to just keep trying until it seems like it works. Formatting, for me, is the most difficult part. If you aren't tech-savvy, I don't recommend trying to format your book in order to sell Kindle and Nook versions. No amount of extra time is going to help you do something you don't understand. But this post is all about deadlines, so I won't bore you with the unending list of my pet peeves when it comes to digital formatting!

In closing, it's always better to give yourself more time than you need but to work at a speed that will ensure you are done early. Don't stress out. Always remember that you're supposed to be enjoying yourself and meting or surpassing your personal standards. You need to do what you love; it will show in the final product!

Lizz Clements is a vegan food blogger and cookbook author currently living in Austin, TX. Her first cookbook, Summertime Sippers, is devoted to celebrating warm summer days with iced cold drinks. It is available in print and digital format from her website,

Coming Up! A review of Clements' Summertime Sippers!

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