This article is the first in a new series about entrepreneurs who have used a book as leverage to greater business success. I met Sue a number of years ago after she purchased my book Publishize. I subsequently helped her with a few thorny InDesign questions. Since then, I’ve watched as Sue has gone on to do remarkable things and help a lot of people who are dealing with fibromyalgia. Her book FibroWHYalgia is ample proof that smart authors who learn about publishing can produce high-quality books. Here are Sue’s answers to my interview questions.
Why did you want to write and/or publish a book? How did you know it was the right time?
As a children’s fiction writer, I belonged to several children’s writing groups as well as organizations such as the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I feel that writing for children helped me to craft my writing skills as well as provide me with a crash course on the world of traditional publishing. For me, the desire to see a book in print was already there; my plans simply took a detour when my health spiraled out of control.
It became the “right” time for me when I was asked to do speaking engagements after getting well. People wanted to know how I did it; they were interested in the details. The book organically developed as a way for me to get my message out so I could hand it to people rather than repeating myself in emails or trying to fit in everything at my speaking gigs.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took me about 3+ years to write it (I agonized and was paralyzed over every detail!) and another year or more to go about the actual publishing of it.
How did you opt to publish the book and why?
Part of my long journey in getting my book into print was my discovery of what was best for me. My children’s book publishing background had ingrained in me the fact that traditional publishing was “real” and any other avenue was in some way artificial. I read statistics everywhere stating that the odds of finishing a book were slim (but I was willing to take that challenge). I read that the odds of finding an agent were miniscule and that the odds of the agent actually getting a nibble on a publisher were even worse.
As I saw it, this whole process was a way for someone else to hold my book hostage for a prolonged period of time. On the bright side it was possible to see some action within about three years, but then, it could be much longer – or then again, never. I’d worked so hard to actually finish my book! I’d even generated some early buzz of approval. I realized that I needed far more influence over what happened to my book than the prospect of sitting at home helplessly twiddling my thumbs. So … I started the yearlong journey of researching the ins and outs of self-publishing. Finally, I settled on the notion of becoming an independent publisher. It felt right for me.
What challenges did you face?
I faced a steep learning curve in every aspect of this journey. And, I was challenged by the fact that I was doing it all alone. What software does an independent publisher need? How do you use it? What are the “rules” for a copyright page? What’s front matter, back matter, recto, verso? In many ways, I’m glad that I didn’t know what was ahead. Had I known I’d spend two months straight, nearly 24 hours a day trying to get errors out of my book file, I’d have given up. Ignorance does have its merits.
I may have plodded forward in ignorance; however, the key is that I DID plod forward. I took one step at a time, until my book was in print.
How did you decide on a topic?
The topic of health and wellness decided on me rather than the other way around. I never set out to write a book on health and certainly had no interest in non-fiction, but as I researched, I realized that it was actually a good way to begin my publishing journey. I learned that marketing non-fiction to a targeted audience is actually an ideal situation.
What resources did you use and how were they beneficial?
I’m a natural reader/researcher, so reading is my favorite way to learn. I purchased many self-publishing books and could now create a very nice square ottoman of them should I put my trusty (and dusty) glue gun to use.
In all sincerity, one book I’d never lend, or rest my feet on, would be my prized copies of Publishize. I say “copies” you see, because I have two — one tattered and worn the other kept for “good.” It was nice to have them always handy, one upstairs and the other one downstairs. Call me lazy.
Nothing was sweeter than checking off my progress on the timeline provided on pages 204-205. That’s what kept me focused and motivated.
What have been the results of publishing your book?
The results of getting my book out into the world have far-exceeded my wildest expectations. Yes, it was hard to actually write and produce my book, but marketing has been equally hard – just a different kind of hard.
I’ve answered media requests for blog posts, interviews, and quotes. Some of them have showed up in other people’s books, blogs, articles, and podcasts. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been featured in a best selling magazine and on a nationally syndicated health TV program. Great media exposure provides nice blips in my sales.
For the most part, I’m very pleased that my publishing company actually runs in the black. That’s nothing to scoff at. Day in and day out, my book is selling predominantly by word of mouth. I work very hard to promote it via social media (Facebook and twitter) and do what I can to continue the momentum.
The difficulty I’m having right now is trying to reign in that promotional effort so I can work on getting my next titles done without losing momentum on my first. It’s a fine line.
What would you do differently next time?
I think I’d like to be more patient with the process, and take myself off the hook for having to do everything. The fact is, just because I can do something all by myself, who says I have to? I’m now more open to delegating tasks than I was and that’s a good thing!
Any other comments?
A few months ago, I was at a conference with other health nuts like me. I was chatting to a nutrition newbie about raw foods vs. cooked and blended green smoothies vs. juicing. When I mentioned my book, she jumped up and down like a child. She said, “Oh my gosh! You have a book? I want to write a book! Help me get my book out, too!” I told her she’d be a great author and I’d love to see her bring her ideas into the world. But … I’ve got my own books to birth, I can’t be a midwife for hers.
I’m not sure that she truly grasped what I meant (I was a bit more diplomatic than it appears). All I can say is that once you have one book out, you’re working on number two, and three and….
About Sue Ingebretson (The Official Bio)
Sue Ingebretson is a writer, speaker, health coach and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Research and Education Center at California State University, Fullerton. Her book, FibroWHYalgia: Why Rebuilding the Ten Root Causes of Chronic Illness Restores Chronic Wellness, details her own journey from illness to wellness.
Ingebretson was featured in the March 2011 issue of FIRST for Women magazine and made several guest appearances on the nationally syndicated health TV program, Know the Cause! Her writing has appeared in multiple health and wellness publications. Ingebretson is a contributing author to The Gratitude Book Project and the eBook Fibromyalgia Insider Secrets: Top 12 Experts. She has also authored many books for Playbooks, Inc., a children’s publisher of instructional classroom books. Her book, Fabulous Food Detectives, teaches students to read food labels and discern the differences between whole and packaged foods.
Sue’s Blog: www.RebuildingWellness.com
FibroWHYalgia Book Site: www.FibroWHYalgia.com
Sue’s Coaching Web Site: www.Sue-Inge.com