Renee Fisher & Co. is now a full-service agency for all things self-publishing.
I (Renee) am so excited to change the negative stereotype of self-publishing one book at a time. The good news is that self-publishing is no longer taboo! Your chances of getting traditionally published are even higher now if your self-published book sells well!
I hope the #JustStart Writing Your Book series will encourage you to #JustStart writing your book today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.
Just start writing today!
Next up in the #JustStart Writing Your Book guest post series is Sandy Cooper. She is the first woman to self-publish using the self-publishing templates!
1. Growing up, did you always dream of writing a book?
Not really. Growing up, my big writing dream was to have my “Dear Beauty Editor” letter published in Teen Magazine (true story—never happened, though). I always loved to write, but it mostly resulted in producing terrible poetry about ex-boyfriends.
I didn’t realize I could actually write a book until college, where I received a lot of positive affirmation from my writing professors. By my early 20s, “Write a book” became an official item on my Bucket List—though, I had no idea what that book would be about. From that point, it was never a question of “if” I’d write a book, but “when.”
2. How much time passed (days, months, or years) was it from the time you knew you wanted to write a book to when you actually started writing your book?
I started writing and teaching my own bible studies as a college student. I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing. I was a new Christian at a secular college—a ton of zeal and no wisdom.
Even when I taught Bible studies written by others, I would always supplement with my own material I uncovered in my private study time. I didn’t realize it then, but these were the very beginnings of the book I’d eventually publish 30 years later.
Throughout my 20s and 30s, I sought an outlet for my writing, submitting several articles to magazines, attending writer’s conferences, and even writing an entire book manuscript (yet-to-be-published) about surviving the loss of a child.
But my writing really began to take shape In 2008, when I was house-bound with our newly-adopted daughter and fourth child, and I started a blog. As I struggled to figure out the complexities of faith, marriage, parenting, and health, I’d research the topics and blog about them. Then I’d use this same material for Bible studies I’d teach in my home and at my church. Much of this became the basis for my first book. So, realistically, the material evolved over a 30-year period!
Once I decided to self-publish Finding Your Balance, it took me about eight months from beginning to end to gather, curate, and reformat the material into the final version.
3. What were some obstacles you had to overcome to #juststart writing your book? How did you overcome?
I feel like I encountered many obstacles in the writing process, but I’ll share the top three:
First, after blogging for nine years, I became very addicted to the “high” of publishing a post on the Internet and getting immediate feedback from my blog-readers. Book-writing is completely different. The chapters I was writing at the time would not see the light of day for at least a year. (If you traditionally publish, the gap is even longer.)
To overcome this, I would sometimes send small portions of whatever I was working on to my editor to get her feedback and encouragement—I just needed someone to tell me my writing didn’t stink. Other times, I would publish a little something from the book on my blog. Mostly though, I just tried to stay dedicated to the process, knowing I would get all the feedback I desired once the book was finished and into the hands of the readers.
A second obstacle was the actual process of reformatting literally hundreds of blog posts and decades of Bible study outlines into actually written lessons, with discussion questions and interactive material. Again, book-writing is so completely different from blog-writing or preparing to teach a live Bible study. With blogging and teaching, I could slap something up on my blog or stick something in my teaching notes, and then switch it on a whim or delete it altogether if I changed my mind. Writing is much more permanent. Plus, the added gravity of the responsibility of publishing a Bible study weighed heavy on me. I wanted to make sure I didn’t teach bad theology! It was just all way more difficult and time-consuming than I thought it would be.
The way I overcame was by reading other books in my genre to get a general feel for how I wanted my book to flow—this helped me have a vision for the final product. I also had several readers preview early copies of the manuscript for Biblical accuracy. Honestly, my writing days were clunky and awkward at first because I had all this stuff and had no idea how to pull it all together. But once I got into the groove, it became much easier.
Finally, my most prevalent obstacle throughout the entire eight months of writing was feeling like I had to do “All The Things” while I was also writing the book (i.e., build and engage my email list, publish regular blog posts, keep up my social media sites, monetize my blog, learn everything there was to know about self-publishing…). No matter what I tended to, I felt like I should have been working on something else.
I don’t think I ever really overcame this until after the book was finished. It completely stressed me out. In retrospect, I would have “gone dark” on my blog and social media accounts (not published on them at all or very infrequently) and just focused on the deep work of writing the book. Most people would not have even noticed I was gone, and I probably would have been able to finish the book more quickly. In fact, this is most definitely what I plan to do when I write my next book.
4. You are not the only woman who dreams of publishing her own book. What would you say to that woman today? Would you give her advice? Encourage her? Pray for her? What does she need to know to #juststart writing?
I would say don’t be in a rush to “publish” all your ideas as soon as possible. Take the time to allow your book material to evolve and grow over time. Teach it to a small group of people, blog portions of it, give it to a group of your friends to read, join a writer’s group…do something to get input and reactions from your target audience and then tweak, tweak, and tweak some more! At the very least, hire a good editor who understands your vision and will offer feedback on the content of your book while he or she is editing. This will only make your book stronger and more relevant to your readers.
Similarly, I would encourage you to hone your craft—be the best writer you can be. Write as often as you can in as many outlets as you can. Take the time to find your writing voice. Attend conferences. Join writing groups. Read great authors in your genre. Pay close attention to the kind of writing that moves you, and work at incorporating those techniques into your own writing.
In a word, keep growing and improving as a writer. I love Steven Martin’s quote, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
5. Was there one or two people that helped you finish writing your book? Who were they and what kind of support did you receive from them?
Most definitely, my editor, Ana. When I was absolutely SICK of my book and everything about writing (I’d send her emergency texts saying, “I hate writing. I hate people. I hate balance. Help me.”) she was quick to reply and talk me down from the ledge. She’d send me hilarious gifs and emails. She’d remind me that all my Crazy was normal and that it would be over soon. She was awesome—everyone needs an Ana in their lives!
Also, my husband helped tremendously at the end. The final weeks, when I was often spending 12 hours a day in the writing cave, he basically held down the fort in our home by taking complete care of the kids and eating a lot of frozen burritos. I couldn’t have done it without him.
6. Now that your book is out, what is your heart for this book? i.e. Tell us why we should buy it?
Finding Your Balance is an eleven-lesson Bible study that teaches women how to live out their priorities through freedom in Christ. It helps us identify and overcome our barriers to balance—perfectionism, comparison, people pleasing, and busyness—by replacing faulty thinking and bad habits with the truth and practices found in God’s word.
It’s for the woman who feels overwhelmed, overly-busy, and pulled in multiple directions. It really gets to the root of our balance issues by uncovering the lies that got us here in the first place. Rather than offering a quick fix or “three simple steps”, it leads women through an in-depth process to help us change our thinking. I mean, if achieving and maintaining life-balance was simply a matter of tweaking a few things on the calendar, we would have all done this by now, right?!
You can buy Finding Your Balance on Amazon here.
Sandy Cooper is the Leader of Women’s Ministry at New Life Church in Louisville, a Bible study teacher, and author of her personal blog, The Scoop on Balance (www.thescooponbalance.com). Her passion is to encourage women to live their priorities through freedom in Christ.
Her accomplishments include surviving the death of her 9-month-old son (Noah), winning an on-going battle with clinical depression, and finding a laundry system that actually works (the search for which may or may not have contributed to the depression). She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with Jon (her husband of 24 years) and her three living children Rebekah (18), Elijah (16) and Elliana (11).
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