In August of this year, I embarked on a journey to publish my first book. It is a poetry book detailing the journey I took to self-acceptance. The prose relays my struggle in creating an identity amongst new ideals of feminism and politics, my tribulations in life, and the constant internal war that rages inside me. The internal war may be on paper, but an external war was also evident: how to publish my book.
I'd like to note that I published my book under the pseudonym, "Ava Bardot," because I felt more comfortable publishing a book so personal under a false name rather than my own.
1. Edit, Edit, Edit!
Every day, I'd wake up thinking my book was finally done. Finally perfect. Today would be the day to cross off "publishing a book" off my bucket list. And each day, my draft would prove me wrong. This led me to conclude that no matter how many times you read a draft, finding mistakes are inevitable. Sometimes you overlook them. Sometimes they hide and jump out when you believe you're finally done with the draft. Sometimes you need another individual to catch mistakes you may have missed. And this is where beta readers come in. Beta readers are essential to ensuring that your book makes sense in terms of layout, grammar, and spelling. My own beta readers suggested reordering my poems in a method that aligned with the theme of a journey to self-acceptance.
2. Making Yourself Sound Sane
It's often said that authors hate talking about themselves. Nothing embodies that better than the struggle we undergo trying to make ourselves sound contrary to the reclusive stereotype we are believed to inhibit. The author description can ensure that readers return to any books published in the future, as well as give a personality to the words the reader has read. My own description was painstakingly constructed in a method that would endear me to the reader, show my uniqueness, and gives a rationale for why I wrote what I did: "ABOUT THE AUTHOR: If she were to describe herself in one word, F. Khan would say she was a dreamer. An avid one, too. Poetry has always been an extension of her inner monologue, from the tumultuous riots that exclaimed at the world's injustices to silent content with an affinity to possess a characteristic quirkiness. Her weaving of politics, diurnal struggles, and enraged frustrations into her writing is all a consequence of a mind both inquisitive and passionate."
3. All Rights Reserved!
You have to understand that as soon as you publish your book, you are releasing it into a world where plagiarism is a common occurrence. To make sure my work had protection, I chose Amazon CreateSpace to publish my book. The platform assigns an ISBN to your book, supports writers, and has programs that ensure your book is ready for publishing. On the first page of your draft, make sure to include, "Copyright © 2018 by ‘Your Name’ All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review. ISBN: Number."
4. Wherefore Art Thou, Title?
One of the hardest things you'll ever do in your ordeal of self-publishing is coming up with a title that tantalizes your readers, satisfies you as an author, and is attractive enough in the publishing world for lucrative opportunities. From my own experience, I've learned to be enigmatic. My title, "A Girl And Her Mirror," is a title that is mysterious at first but makes sense in the context of the words in the book: the mirror refers to my insecurities and is a metaphor that constantly evolves into being an image that I finally accept.
5. The Sparknotes Plot Summary
I had always underestimated the importance of the back cover of books, especially that of poetry books. My poetry book tackles uncomfortable issues, and a way to summarize a contentious book in a way that ensures that the writer is sane was difficult. I can only imagine the struggle fantasy authors go through in creating a back cover (especially if they're self-publishing). I realized I needed to be honest to my readers, while staying true to my own prose to give readers a taste of my writing. My final blurb was, "This collection of poetry details one girl’s personal journey to self-acceptance. Along the way, she discovers her sugared oceans aren't entirely fantasy, and the mirror that reflected her perhaps wasn't so accurate after all. The syllables, vowels and consonants all paint voyages of heartbreak, pain, dreams and ultimate self-discovery, while suggesting a certain catharsis is taking place in the narration. Political themes and feminism are woven throughout the collection, from the eyes of a woman who navigated through life to reach the pinnacle of contentment; the author herself."
Remember to be concise, short, and true to your yourself and your readers.
6. A [Cover] Is Worth A Thousand Words
The cover of a book is often underestimated as well. There's a whole world of technicalities that need to be addressed in the publishing world regarding covers; DPI's must be exact, images must have enough brightness and contrast, and before you know it, you'll go through at least 50 different revisions of an image that is so important in marketing your book. For my book, I wanted the title to be the center of focus, and so black and white were my chosen colors. I wanted a step design to capture the element of journey that is thematic in the poetry book, and so the title was split into three different sections of the cover. The black and white squares are symbolic of the mirror I gaze into, seeing reflections of myself that I gradually learn to love. Each element is deliberate in its incorporation, and a striking image as the cover is the aim of every author. Of course, depending on your genre, covers may differ. For fantasy novels, a colorful cover is common (think Games of Thrones by George R. Martin or A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.). For nonfiction novels, an interactive cover is successful (like Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansy). And for poetry books, simplicity is key (like Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey).
7. The best $2.97 You'll Ever Spend
Sending the draft of your book is the best feeling in the world. Even more so when it returns without any mistakes and your CreateSpace account declares you may order your proof! For my poetry book that was in black and white, full bleed and approximately 114 pages, the cost of a proof was $2.97. It should be noted that this is the only money I ever spent on my book. I used a free platform for self-publishing that allowed A Girl And Her Mirror to be on the Amazon and iBooks markets, created my own cover and descriptions, and only had to pay $2.97 to receive the physical copy of my book. I proved everyone who ever said self-publishing was expensive wrong, and you can too. Feel free to buy A Girl And Her Mirror (now on Amazon and iBooks!) anytime though.