With a publisher, fame and fortune would certainly follow. Right?
The idea for Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs came to me in the night. Literally. At 2 AM, I raced to a lined yellow pad and each of the 51 chapters fell out of my head and onto the paper. Just like that. Ten minutes flat. I knew it was something that the members of my organization, The Founding Moms, needed to read. They would buy it, but how would I get it into their hands?
Find an agent. That’s what everyone told me to do. Seek out a representative who would push my book hard, and the right publisher would make a great offer. So, I headed to the nearest Borders (may it rest in peace) and picked up a magazine on publishing. An agent was interviewed about how many submissions she gets, why she can’t respond to most of them, and why writers shouldn’t even bother contacting her. So I emailed her. She responded almost immediately and because she did, I was off and running.
Proposal in hand, my new agent shopped it around to publishers big and small. She bragged about the organization that I run and just how many members we had who would buy the book. See, I run The Founding Moms. It’s a collective of meetups for mom entrepreneurs in 30+ cities around the globe. In under 2 years we’ve grown to 2,500+ members. Women business owners come together once a month to help each other build better businesses. It’s a platform that I did not intend to build — it’s very much member-driven — but it’s the kind of platform that publishers pray their authors already have. A built-in audience for a new book? That’s a base of buyers ready to go.
Did this help? Apparently not.
Instead of taking a look at who I was and what my membership base comprises, the publishers compared and contrasted my book idea to recent business book releases and how they performed. To this day, I strongly believe that my book is unlike any other in its field. (Of course I do.) No matter: all offers that my glorious agent received were junk. No real bites. But I sat. And waited. And waited some more.
One day, a whole year later, it occurred to me that I help, advise and educate entrepreneurs day in and day out. If I was all about DIY, I may as well DIM (Do It Myself.) Self-publishing, albeit praised all over the Internet, was not something people talked about much in my circles. Mostly because no one had any experience with it. I sought advice from a few self-published authors but no one seemed to be truly enthusiastic about it. I talked to local bookstore owners about self-published authors and they responded with, “Goooooooooood luck with that one. Tough stuff. Hope you make it!”
As with any company I’ve launched, I started from scratch.
I asked around for recommendations of graphic designers, of book editors, of book designers and of printers. I amassed lists and queries and quotes. Turns out all that inquiring, collecting and sifting is fun in and of itself. It’s not exactly what an author signs up to do, but it’s a start to realizing just how much control you have over the entire process. I’d heard horror stories from published authors who didn’t even choose the titles to their own books. That would never happen to me. And it was then that I became a convert. Suddenly, I was self-publishing’s biggest advocate and hardest-working author.
Thanks to my built-in audience, I knew what appealed to them. I wanted to keep the cover of my book in line with my brand, and the end-result was a very cool, funked-up version of my website at FoundingMoms.com, which you can see here.
The book designer and I worked very closely together, literally designing page by page, so that the look and feel of the book matched my expectations and that of my potential readers. The illustrator happens to live across the street from where I do, and his cartoons are hysterical — and very well-received on Facebook. The book designer recommended the printer who did a fantastic job.
And my editor? She was recommended by a mutual friend and it turns out she’s the best editor I’ve ever had. (I do write for NBC Chicago and the New York Times so I’ve had an editor or two previously.) By the end of the entire process, I had a new family to whom I felt indebted and so grateful that they’d worked so hard on my wordbaby. Although I’m a writer, turns out I’m also a self-publishing addict because I dearly miss the days of going back-and-forth with my literary family and tweaking my work to perfection.
How do I distribute the book? A local bookstore owner tipped me off to a fantastic distributor, Small Press United (SPU), which is a part of major distributor IPG. I created a publishing company, Piggott Press, applied to SPU and was accepted. They take a percentage far less than a publisher ever would, and they get my book into the hands of any and every indie bookstore and national chain that there is.
To those of you seeking a publishing deal: quit it. You don’t need to hand over any profits, control, distribution or happiness to a major corporation that may or may not pay attention to your success anyhow. Go the way of T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve found much success in self-publishing, and you can, too.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. A graduate of Brown University and law school, she started a music management firm and then launched a baby jewelry company before creating her current venture. Jill has been featured in national media outlets including People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Candy Kids, NBC5 and WGN TV. She is the author of Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs, a columnist for NBC Chicago, has been published in The New York Times and gave her very own TED talk on 11/11/11. In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, baking, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.