Two years ago, I was in the early stages of writing my latest personal finance book, Flipping a Switch, about 35 transitions that people experience in later life. I was in between houses and living alone at the Rutgers University Inn for 13 weeks with plenty of time at night and on weekends for research and writing.
Last year, I co-presented an on-demand recorded workshop about book publishing with Axton Betz-Hamilton, author of The Less People Know About Us, at the 2020 AFCPE Symposium. Axton’s book describes her experiences as a child identity theft victim.
In the workshop, Axton and I described our experiences as recent book authors and steps that we followed from first deciding to write a book to marketing the finished product.
Below is a brief description of the five-step book-publishing process that we shared with the participants in our workshop:
Develop a Creative Title and Content
Ideally, write about something that has not been covered widely before. You need to have a unique value proposition. Axton’s book filled a void because no memoirs existed on familial identity theft.
My book juxtaposes the financial, social, and lifestyle transitions experienced in later life into one book versus other books that cover only financial aspects or social/emotional aspects of retirement. My content wasn’t necessarily “new,” like Axton’s, but it was approached from a different vantage point.
Develop a Book Proposal
Axton developed her book content with the assistance of a literary agent. Her proposal, which included a proposed outline and several sample chapters, was sent to 25 traditional publishers.
I followed Wiley’s proposal guidelines, got rejected by Wiley (“there were too many books in the space”), and sent the same exact proposal to Atlantic Publishing, a hybrid publisher. I then requested an in-person meeting and received a contract soon thereafter. At that point, nothing had been written. No literary agent was involved.
Research Content and Write the Book
Axton conducted many interviews and reviewed diaries, documents, and photographs. She wrote her book over a period of six years in a “catch-as-catch-can” manner around her “day job” as a college professor.
I read 500+ blog posts and 100+ journal articles and also conducted interviews.
With some existing content from my work as a Cooperative Extension personal finance specialist, I wrote my book over a nine-month period (around work obligations) from September 2019 through May 2020.
Design Cover and Marketing Materials
Axton reviewed several versions and revisions of her book cover and eventually used an old family photo for her front cover. I wanted a light switch on my book cover to reflect its title. My hybrid publisher prepared three sample covers with different colors and graphics, and I picked one.
Market Your Book
Marketing methods that Axton used included graphics for social media, social media posts, postcards, book reviews, press releases, book signings, and television interviews, including the Dr. Oz show.
I used social media, press releases, and guest appearances on podcasts and webinars along with a 35-day campaign on Twitter (#35DaysofFlippedSwitches). I have not done any book signings yet due to COVID-19.
There are three types of book publishing: self-publish, hybrid, and traditional. Each has pros and cons. As my story and Axton’s show, there are multiple paths to producing a book and getting it in the hands of readers.