When I gaily wrote in my Arts Council England grant application in January 2021 that I was going to self-publish some of my nature writing in spring 2022, I hadn’t really understood what that would mean in practice. Now having brought the book into being, after a steep learning curve, I’m hoping that sharing the steps might be useful for other folk’s self publishing projects.

  1. Budget for quality production. If you have any ambitions for your self published book to be sold in bookshops, then don’t skimp on the design and print quality. I was really lucky that the design and marketing was covered by my Arts Council grant and I’d budgeted £1000 for it. I’d heard from my bookshop-owning sister that authors regularly bring her self published books which wouldn’t work in her shop, because, for example, the design doesn’t look professional or the production quality is too low, so I knew this was important to get right.
  2. Find a good designer and printing company before your concept is too fixed in stone. Once I’d found a fabulous and multi-talented book designer – Rebecca On The Wing – to work with, the project seemed infinitely more achievable. Combined with the services of Bookitude, an online book printing company who have excellent customer services and offer good value short runs, I knew what format the print ready document had to be and could be confident that the final product would be high quality.
  3. Listen to your designer’s views and agree the final concept in discussion with them. After talking to Rebecca, I decided that I wanted to combine my writing with writing from the lovely participants in the workshops I’d been leading over the year of the grant and have prompts and writing space to inspire the reader to add some of their own nature notes and/or creative writing. I love activity journals and thought this would help widen the potential customer base. Rebecca and I agreed that organising it month by month would work well for nature writing, help with illustrations and I found some examples of seasonal workshop writing which I thought really well alongside mine.
  4. Write a book project plan for you and your designer to refer to. Rebecca is super organised and set up a Google Drive folder for all the files we needed for the book including a project plan which told me when I get each element to her and timetabled in regular progress chats.
  5. Find some kind people to endorse your book. Obviously if they have some profile that’s fab, but, failing that, start charming and networking to find some people who’d like to support you by giving you a quote you can use in the introduction or on the cover of your book.
  6. To ISBN or not to ISBN. ISBNs are the standard way books are identified and I read that bookshops would expect your book to have one. In the UK all ISBN numbers are purchased from Nielsen and I paid £89 for the number and a further £15 for the barcode. On a more superficial level, the ISBN made the book look more professional – to me at least.
  7. Check, check and triple check. Order a proof copy and go through it with a fine tooth comb. Ask for help from others too before you make corrections put in your fuller order.
  8. Work out how you’re going to sell your book online. Even if you have plans to get your book into independent shops, having an online shop is likely to reach a wider audience. I’m boycotting Amazon until I’m convinced they’re treating their staff reasonably, so on Rebecca’s recommendation I decided to use Big Cartel – you can find my shop here – which is easy to set up, lets you sell 5 products for free and works as a communication channel between you and your customers. It also give you an option for creating discount codes. I did have to set up a Stripe account for payments but you can use a Paypal business account too.
  9. Decide on the trade and retail price. My sister suggested that I charge shops £4.50 for the book, tell them I’ll be selling it at £8.50 and leave them to decide how they want to price it.
  10. Cost for full postage and packing. At the mo’, my books are mailed out using the Royal Mail 2nd Class Signed For services which works out at £3.05 for one book plus a 50p cardboard envelope. Knowing the parcel weight means I can buy the postage more cheaply online and then go to my local sorting office to print the label and hand it over to the staff there. Combined with the envelope cost it’s not cheap but I’m confident they’ll arrive safely.
  11. Get them out there. The Journals aren’t doing any good sitting in a box in my office, so I’m making sure that I regularly look out for opportunities to sell them. I’m really delighted that the London Wildlife Trust have agreed to sell them in their shop in Walthamstow Wetlands reserve but I’m not stopping there. And obviously I’m hoping that a lovely publisher will come across the Journal and decide to publish it.