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The Adventure Called "Writing a Book"

Updated on September 8, 2017
Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama/Karen has been writing since she was ten. She is a published author & finds inspiration from a variety of sources & settings.

Spring cherry blossoms in D.C.

photo by Matt Higgins
photo by Matt Higgins

When opportunity knocks, I open the door, embrace it and serve it a goblet of wine

On October 30, 2009 I signed a contract with the Atlantic Publishing Company in Florida to write a how-to book about growing your own fruits and berries. It was a work-for-hire contract for which I have worked hundreds of hours with two lovely editors and have created something for which I am proud to be named the author.The title of the book is The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply.

When I approached Atlantic Publishing about writing this book, in response to an ad placed on Craigslist, I communicated my love of gardening, my childhood memories, the community resources available to me, and the network of knowledgeable contributors I could interview. Having all these resources to tap into, as well as the practical experience I gained over the years, convinced the editor that I was the person the publisher wanted to write this book. As a result, I was given this awesome opportunity. Many people have contributed their time and knowledge to make this book the beauty that it is and I am very grateful to them. They will be receiving a "contributor's" gift copy of the book from the publisher. Because of these friendly, knowledgeable, supportive friends, I have learned a wealth of practical knowledge related to growing fruits and berries. I am in the process of reconnecting to my inner gardener, which has been quite dormant from living in the city without a small parcel of land to cultivate for 20 years. It is one reason I joined the "dirt" team of my co-housing community, which has also contributed significantly to the body of text I wrote for the book in my own chapter on soil. My step-by-step sections were the result of my contributing to the beauty of the landscape around my home by planting fruit trees.

In addition to the sense of satisfaction I have gained from working on the project, I have also accumulated additional knowledge and experience about the subject. Included in the growth I experienced was the progress I made with my writing skills. Outlining, researching, writing, and revising involved a level of incomparable toil that was worth the sweat and tears because I have journeyed through to the other side a confident and inspired writer, eager to take on the next opportunity I find for freelance work as an author.

In the Thick of Things ~

The Process

Book Review and Outline: The first step in the process of writing my book was to review the pile of books on the subject that the publisher sent to me, and create an outline for the information I intended to include in the body of my own guide to growing fruits and berries. I also checked out a large pile of books at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden for my research. From these sources I compiled pages of notes, from which I created a detailed outline of the content that was destined for inclusion in the book.

Chapter Summaries: Once the outline was complete, I created a set of summaries for the chapters I planned to divide the book into. This served as a skeleton for my introduction, but required much revision in order to weave them together cohesively.

Introduction: The introduction was the most personal section of the book because it was the one section written in the first person. In it, I shared the passion that brought me to writing the book and my purpose for doing so. It was both my "mission statement" and my discussion of all the topics that the reader would find detailed information about on the pages that followed.

The next 65,000 words: These were the words that took many hours of toil to write. The process was broken down by the publisher into stages to which a monetary value for my payment was attached, The outline and chapter summaries made up Stage 1. Stage 2 was the first 20,000 words, which included the Introduction. Stage 3 was the second 20,000 words and Stage 4 was the final 25,000 words. After each stage, my editor made sure I was paid for that stage, read what I had written, handed it over to a peer review team to edit and make notes, then sent along all those notes for me to consider when revising what I had written and writing fresh material toward the next stage. Once Stage 4 was complete, there was a reprieve before the final revisions of the entire work were requested. When the editor and the big boss accepted the book as done, it was made ready for the layout team to determine the appearance it would take when printed, and place all the contributed photos into the body of the book in their proper places.

The Benefits of Writing this Book

Engaging my creative energy while writing a nonfiction book has provided a breakthrough for me as a writer, and has been the vehicle for the development and growth of my writing skills. Through it, I was able to marry nonfiction to creative writing on a scale I did not foresee as possible. My impression of the world of writing nonfiction for an adult audience was as dry and matter-of-fact, without any embellishment. I was asked to create one that was friendlier and more interesting than that, and I did it! On the one hand, I am eager to consider myself a professional writer, but I acknowledge that daily practice is what will keep my skills progressing further in a positive direction. I have many more manuscripts to revise and to share with the world, some for the pleasure of children and some for adults. I am eager to move on to those, some fiction and some nonfiction, and will spend the next year working on them.

My tools are my constant gardening companions ~

My gardening tools, used for the practical side of writing a how-to book about growing your own food.
My gardening tools, used for the practical side of writing a how-to book about growing your own food. | Source

Enjoying the fruits of my labors ~

Flowering strawberry plants mean that the time for enjoying sweet fruit from my garden is close around the corner.
Flowering strawberry plants mean that the time for enjoying sweet fruit from my garden is close around the corner. | Source
The sweetness of fresh-picked strawberries is a lush reward for the year-round care and attention I give them. Yum!
The sweetness of fresh-picked strawberries is a lush reward for the year-round care and attention I give them. Yum! | Source
Visiting and supporting our local botanical garden is one way to relax after a long stretch of working toward a deadline.
Visiting and supporting our local botanical garden is one way to relax after a long stretch of working toward a deadline. | Source
After the hard work of growing both a book and a garden, it is important to enjoy the fruit's of your labors. For me, baking is one way to do that.
After the hard work of growing both a book and a garden, it is important to enjoy the fruit's of your labors. For me, baking is one way to do that. | Source

After Work Comes Rest ~

Balance in the Life of a Writer

Writing this book also brought to light the importance of my maintaining a balanced daily schedule. As a result of the publisher's aggressive production schedule, I often needed to put family life on hold and neglect important tasks related to maintaining a peaceful home environment in order to meet the imposed deadlines. My editors were very encouraging and understanding, and advocated for my abilities, which kept my publisher content to keep me on the project. Working through many lonely nights while my husband and daughter slept was a necessary consequence of this author-publisher relationship that I hope to never have to repeat.

Perseverance leads to Success

As a result of the commitment and reliability I applied to writing my book, and the rapport that developed between my editor and I, the opportunity to write the final stage of another book, managed also by that editor, was extended to me. It was something I considered but ultimately declined because I respect my time and my energy, and hope to make the money through much less toil. On July 4 of this year I spent the night completing the final revisions for the book and toward the end of August I caught a glimpse of what it would look like from a PDF file sent to me by one of the artistic directors on the layout team. This added to my excitement and anticipation around being a published author. The artistic director also sent me the PDF of the cover, which increased the momentum. The only delay at the time was the generation of photo credits for all the images used in the book. The project underwent several changes in editors, so some of the information about who contributed which photos became garbled. The publisher offered to pay me to clear it up. The prospect of additional pay from the same publisher for the same project just floated my boat, so I set upon the task with vigor and finished it in a few hours.

Time to Enjoy Fruits and Berries

When my work on the book was finally finished, I had time to enjoy the fruits of my labors in another way. I harvested the delicious fruits and berries from plants growing in my gardens. I ran out to my gardens with open arms and watered them with great joy every day for the rest of the seaon.

A Thank You gift ~

A sunflower for all of my supporters. Thank you!
A sunflower for all of my supporters. Thank you! | Source

My book's colorful cover

My book's cover, which I had the chance to review a few month's before its release.
My book's cover, which I had the chance to review a few month's before its release. | Source

My book flies to the shelves of readers!

My Book's Journey Toward Publication and Release

In October of 2010, I received news that my book was due to be printed in the next run of new releases, so I set to promoting its sales in preparation. I joined the publisher's affiliate program so that I would make royalties from book sales, worked with a friend to develop an author's web site to promote all of my writing, and set up a Facebook fan page to promote it.

On November 23, 2010, I received my copy of this magnum opus of mine to hold and admire with pride. It is good to know that my contributors have received their copies, and more are available for purchase through Atlantic Publishing Company by way of my web site, the link to which is provided below.

Marketing and Promoting My Book

More and more publishers lay the burden of a book's success on the author. Much of the marketing and promotion of the book becomes the responsibility of the person who has also written the book. This is especially true for those who self-publish, but the lion's share of marketing can also fall on the author who has signed on with a smaller publisher. They market my book to sell, but I do not make any commission on the book unless it is through the channels I set up myself. They will ship copies of my book to Borders Books and Music or Barnes & Noble at a bookseller's discounted price, then give me a royalty that is slightly less than they give to their affiliates, but their policy includes a financial demerit for me for every unsold book a bookseller returns to the publisher if they decide that they do not want to keep them on their shelves any longer. I have approached a manager of each store and they both have expressed interest in carrying the book. Since the corporate office for each chain holds the final decision, their power is in their recommendation. The manager of the Borders Books and Music store near me ordered 3 copies of my book to keep on their shelves before they closed. I hope that those books are sold to eager gardeners in search of a comprehensive guide to growing their own fruits and berries.

My Marketing Platform

Designing a website, setting up an affiliate link with my publisher, approaching managers at bookstores, and launching a fan page on Facebook are not the only steps I have taken to market my book. I have ordered 250 cards from Vistaprint , and on the back of them I have written the URL of my Hub Pages profile. I am also a member of the National Writer's Union and have participated in events hosted by the Boston chapter of that organization. On January 23, 2011, I attended their annual book party and sold 2 copies of my book there. Since then, 1 fellow church member and 2 fellow writer's group members also bought a copy. One soul whose identity I do not know bought a copy of my book online. That makes 5 sold copies sold in the first 60 days of its availability.

I will not stop there. I do not know where the windfall of interest will come from, so I keep all avenues for marketing open. I have created a profile on SheWrites and an author's page on both Amazon and Goodreads. I have also contacted Oprah about covering the subject of my book with one of her shows. I hope there will be some bites from all of those ponds.

My strongest network of support continues to be my friends and family. This is true for most writers. Personal interaction still wins as a marketing tool, and that is where it is best to start - with our greatest allies. My mother has bought copies to give as gifts and I have given signed copies of my book for inclusion in silent auctions for benefits. One signed copy I traded for a music CD that I love listening to. Those gestures have brought me joy and I am honored that my book has been considered of such value by those who possess it.

Stepping Through a New Door

Now it is time for me to return to a balanced life and pursue my dreams of authorship through measured daily progress. I have joined a local writer's group and I am very happy to have the good fortune of my relationship with the Hub Pages community, who inspire me to make that progress each day, hub by hub.

Though my original iPage website was hacked, and my WordPress blog was taken down along with it, I have built a new site with Weebly and still have my Facebook fan page and other forms of online presence for keeping my author's platform alive. I intend to re-publish many of my Word Press posts on my SheWrites blog.

My book is also available through Amazon ~

The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply (Back-To-Basics)
The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply (Back-To-Basics)
This is the paperback print edition of my book, which brings you through all of the steps to growing delicious, juicy fruit, no matter where you live ~ from choosing a fruit to grow, planting, caring, cultivating, pruning, and harvesting. The book is well illustrated with pictures that show you what the steps look like, and treats you to recipes to use for enjoying the fruits of your labors.

© 2010 Karen A Szklany


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