As I conclude the Making of Tastes of the Camino series, I want to leave you with a few final thoughts about writing and publishing your own book.
Price your book competitively. Your book might be incredibly unique, one-of-a-kind… I certainly think mine is! It is, therefore, easy to get carried away thinking that your book is so unique that it can justify a price premium… The fact of the matter is that it cannot. If you are selling your book at a premium, it will definitely impact your sales volume in a negative way. So price your book in line with comparable books out there. I define “comparable” as a book of similar genre, finishes and page count. For instance, when pricing Tastes of the Camino, I researched pricing for hardcover cookbooks with color photography and a similar page count. Once I had a number in mind, I surveyed my circle of influence to confirm this number made sense. I could have taken the approach of “oh well, there are only a handful of cookbooks focused on the Camino and mine is so much better… therefore, I can charge whatever I want!” But that would have been counterproductive, as the decision would have been based on emotions, not data.
Research your vendors. First and foremost, you need to find a vendor you are comfortable working with and that is vested in your success. If you are not 100% comfortable with your vendor or they can’t understand that your success is their success, odds are that you will not end up with the end product you want. In addition, you will find that most quotes are not comparable to each other until you start asking tons of questions and breaking down the information. Finally, be prepared for significant price differences among vendors. In all instances, I found that the highest quote was between five and ten times as high as the cheapest one! Of course, you don’t necessarily want to go with the cheapest but you also don’t want to be taken for a ride.
Don’t put an artificial deadline for the project. When I started writing this book, I thought I would be able to complete it within one year. I quickly realized that developing recipes was way more time consuming than I expected, particularly since this was not a full time endeavor. When people asked me when the book was going to be ready, I allowed that question to put an enormous amount of pressure on me. It is good to have a timeframe in mind but after reading this series, you can probably appreciate that writing and publishing a book is quite complex. Putting an artificial deadline will only create artificial pressure on you and, trust me, that is the last thing you need while writing and publishing a book, particularly the first time around. For the second book project, you will understand the process better and everything should be faster and smoother and you will be able to put a realistic deadline. But for the first book, just let things develop naturally. The book will be ready when it’s ready!
The bulk of your sales will happen in the first six months. Of the 1300 books I’ve sold so far, about 1,000 were sold in the first six months. The remaining 300 have sold over a nine-month period. From my conversations with other authors, this is a normal pattern. I share this so a) you maximize your marketing activities during those first six months and b) you don’t get dissuaded when you see the sales volume slow down… you still will sell books but at a much slower pace and you will need to be quite strategic with your efforts.
Be realistic about your financial goals. Writing and publishing a book is quite an expensive proposition and it is easy to get carried away. You will need to manage your expenses carefully and make some hard decisions to make sure you recover your investment. At the same time, you need to understand that writing a book is not a huge moneymaking proposition… If your motivation is to make tons of money, let me tell you something: you are probably better off doing something else!
Enjoy the ride. Writing Tastes of the Camino has been the most enriching and gratifying experience in my life. Of course, there were bumps in the road and certainly, there were numerous times that I thought my book would never see the light of day. But beyond learning the ins and outs of self-publishing, I gained so much from this process… For instance, I reinforced the belief that my gut feeling never fails me. I also discovered that when you put your energy towards positive initiatives, people rally around you to help you be successful. Finally, I realized that living creatively without fear of the unknown is one of the most liberating experiences in life.
Stay humble and grounded! As you know, Tastes of the Camino recently was awarded a Gourmand Best in the World award. Of course, I’m thrilled with this award. But to be honest, I’m pretty sure that when authors receive their advance copies, they all feel like his or her book is in fact the best in the world! When a book is created from one’s heart, an author really does not need an award to feel validated. So be grateful for awards, media mentions and online rankings, but don’t let them affect your ego or how you interact with your readers. One of the things I most enjoy is responding to messages from my readers asking me advice on cooking, sending me pictures of recipes they prepared from the book or just thanking me for putting the book together. Readers will most likely forget that Tastes of the Camino won an award or was featured in the Miami Herald or had a pretty high ranking on Amazon on its launch day (rankings go as quickly as they come!), but they will not forget that you responded to their inquiry or message and those interactions are the ones I value the most!
Hopefully this series has given you an idea of all that is involved in writing and self-publishing a book. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions.