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Tips For Self Publishing Books ft. Sandra Knauf

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Sandra Knauf as they discuss self-publishing books, the cost of self publishing books, and the best companies for self publishing books.

What You’ll Learn

  • Is it better to self publish a book?
  • How much does it cost to self publish a book?
  • What are some self publishing companies?

Our Guest

Sandra Knauf is an Earth-lover, mother, gardener, writer, publisher, and entrepreneur. She moved to Colorado at age 16 and has lived there for over four decades. She started Greenwoman Publishing, LLC in 2011, and decided to start Greenwoman Market a network of earth-friendly business owners and customers.

Sandra’s writing background includes work as a “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post (writing on the environment) and her writing has appeared in Colorado Gardener as well as national publications such as GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm Magazine. She’s also been a guest commentator, reading her humorous, sometimes political, and often nature-themed essays on KRCC’s “Western Skies” radio show (a NPR affiliate station). She has since published a literary garden writing journal, Greenwoman: Vols. I-6; her own YA fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man: an anthology of sexy gardening stories (Fifty Shades of Green); and, most recently, her gardening memoir, Please Don’t Piss on the Petunias: Raising Kids, Crops, and Critters in the City

​She lives and works in Colorado Springs in the historic Old Colorado City neighborhood.

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    Announcer: 0:01

    Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast from when we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: 0:17

    Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole and today we're joined by Sandra Knauf who's a wonderful publisher friend of mine and today we're going to talk about how to self publish a book. So Sandra, thank you so much for joining me today.

    Sandra: 0:35

    Thank you Nicole for inviting me, this is a lot of fun.

    Nicole: 0:38

    Yeah, I you know, this is something that I've been interested in for a while now. And I think that a lot of other people that are kind of in the self sufficiency or homestead niche are interested in, they have so many skills and so much information and knowledge and also a lot of times are looking for ways to supplement their income. So I know that your books are kind of in the, I'll say "natural" or "gardening" kind of niche, some of your books, which I like the title of this one, "Please Don't Piss on the Petunias" - stories about raising kids, crops and critters in the city. I know you have a six volume series of Green Woman, "Zara and the Green Man" and then "50 Shades of Green" as well as several essays and magazines. So this is certainly something that you know, you're more familiar with. It's not just that you wrote, I don't know, a book on mechanics. This is definitely kind of your area.

    Sandra: 1:38

    I've run through the whole gamut of different kinds of writing. I started on college in journalism, took a creative writing class while in college, got my feet wet with that, and before that, I didn't even know if writing would be something that I could ever do. But once I got into it, I really loved it. And have just went on and on for the last 30 years experimenting with different styles. I really love garden writing, I got into self publishing because it was so hard to get noticed in traditional publishing. It's a very kind of closed system for a lot of people. It's extremely hard to break in. And we started getting this wonderful thing called self publishing, where you could do it yourself. And I kind of got into that in the early 2000s. And gradually just did a little more and did a little more. And then I published a magazine, and then a book, then my fiction book, and then my collection of stories that I had been writing over 20 years. It was a very painstaking process, but a very fun process, just learning how to do it all on my own, and I've seen over the last 10 years, it's gotten easier and easier. There's more people out there that can help you with editing. It's very easy to put a book or Ebook on something like Amazon. And I mean, there's people to help you all all around. So it's doable, and everybody has something important to say. And they have their own stories in the homesteading field. There are so many people that have a lot of things that is valuable information to get out there to other people. And it's just fun. It's fun. And so legacy, kind of.

    Nicole: 3:39

    Yeah, I think that that's a definite appeal to is, is to have, you know, a printed book that you can hold in your hands and that not only a sense of accomplishment, but that's something that is lasting and you know, especially if you have something like stories, personal stories in there, that's something that you can pass down and can be kind of a legacy, like you mentioned.

    Sandra: 4:02

    Yeah, that's something I've been interested in years ago. I love the family folklore, the Studs Terkel type interviews where he would interview people about their lives. That was a big thing in probably the 80s. You've probably not heard of him.

    Nicole: 4:20

    I have not.

    Sandra: 4:21

    Well, he used to be kind of a big deal. And he would interview people on the radio about Pearl Harbor, or the Depression or whatever era that they had been through and he would collect all their stories and what was this like? What did your family experience? What did you experience, what was the work like during that day? And I just always found it really fascinating, these stories, personal stories from real people's lives, told in their own words, and it just gave a great insight into how lives are really lived in the United States. So that was part of it. I love garden writing to the first person that really turned me on to garden writing was Michael Pollan. And he wrote a book called "Second Nature" was his first book. And that kind of hooked me into garden writing and I started reading this book called "The Best of American Garden Writing" by Bonnie Macara, Maraca or something. And there were letters in there from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and just the history and the richness of all the plants and the agriculture and the discovery, and all of that. I mean, it's just a genre that goes on forever. It goes into science, it goes into fashion, it goes into politics, exploration, etc, etc. So...

    Nicole: 5:51

    Now, you mentioned earlier that the traditional process to publish a book is difficult to get into. Can you kind of just give me a little snapshot of what the traditional process looks like just so that we can compare it to the self publishing?

    Sandra: 6:05

    Well, for most of us, it means writing a query letter, getting your book together, or if you're doing a nonfiction book, creating, it's a very evolved thing where you do a whole outline, chapters, a little bit of a paragraph on each chapter, and your audience and who you're going to market to and etc, etc.

    Nicole: 6:28

    And then like a synopsis, or something?

    Sandra: 6:30

    Yeah, well, it's a huge thing. It's like a book proposal that you send in and you try to find an agent. A lot of publishing companies, the big ones, they won't even talk to you unless you have an agent. And it's almost impossible to have an agent unless you've published something. So it's the Catch-22 and it's just a very difficult thing. It's kind of something that if you know somebody, a family member or good friend is in the business, you can get your manuscript looked out. But otherwise, it goes on the slush pile. And it might get read and it might not. So, I mean, I went for years and years and years with just gathering rejection letters. With some people. It's tough, but you toughen up after a while. And I love my writing and the first short story. creative nonfiction story I wrote was about raising chickens with my two little girls and all these exotic breed Bantam chickens. And my daughters were at the time they were four and seven years old. And it was just this whole story of discovery, raising chickens in the city not knowing anything about what we were doing, but just discovering it and experiencing it all along the way. And it was this very good story and I just decided to do it. I joined a creative writing class for six weeks here at the local Community Center. And the person who was teaching the class was a well known reporter and a columnist. And she said, "Sandy, this is really good. You should send it into this writing contest, the Pikes Peak writers contest." So I did, and it won First Place for Creative Nonfiction. And I was really surprised, but also like, "Oh, I should really do this!" So that was part of my journey, just writing these stories over all these years. And they would be too long to send to this magazine or that magazine, because a lot of my stories are pretty long and pretty involved. And they would want 5000 words, and that would be, you know, 10,000 or something like that, or 20,000. So it was just an ordeal and that's kind of how I got into publishing my own stuff. I kind of just got sick of sending out things and having rejections come back and I read this book one year, and it was called "How to Be a Famous Writer Before You Die", I think is the title. And the woman, I think her name is Ariel Gore. And she said, just write a zine. And I said, What the heck is zine? So I had to look it up. And it's a little self published magazine, back then you just go to the print store, the copy store and print off a bunch of copies and make it yourself. And I found a distributor, and had a good time doing that writing about all the gardening experiences and sharing other people's work as well. My friends who were writers, poets, different people like that, and I just put together these little booklets, totally handmade and sell those, and I did that for a while. And I thought, I'm gonna do a real magazine. So then I got into that and by that time, my daughters were teenagers. And so they helped me with all the technical aspects. They showed me how to use InDesign, they kind of held my hand with the problems. You know, as I was trying to figure out how to do things, do the art, do the layout. When I was in college, I worked at a print shop. So I knew a little bit about layout, and art and having a background was some journalism, you know, and knew a little bit about a lot of things. So I was kind of thinking, Oh, I can do this. I can figure it out. And I did.

    Sandra: 7:08

    So once you figured out the self publishing, can you walk us through that? Like if I have a book that I want to self publish, but I haven't talked to anybody? I haven't Googled anything. I, I haven't even started, what do I do? What's the first step?

    Sandra: 10:44

    Have you written it? Are you just thinking about writing it?

    Nicole: 10:47

    What's the difference there, as far as the process?

    Sandra: 10:50

    It depends, you know, I personally feel that people should be really passionate and really into a subject to write well about it. I think you have to have a little bit of a fire about it, that passion, because it can be a pretty long process. Some people can write and they're like, "Oh, I really like, you know, this subject about", I don't know, say model trains or something, and they're gonna write a short little book about it, and they can do it. But I like more the creative process and kind of digging into things and researching and just having a good time with it. So I, I kind of have to feel an excitement about it. And I think if people do feel excited about a project, they're going to, you know, want to see it to completion, and they're going to want to do the work that it is going to take to do a really good job. It does take a lot of work.

    Nicole: 11:49

    So if it's something that we've already written, then what's, what's the process to self publishing our book?

    Sandra: 11:56

    Well, it depends on how if it's free, Rush and you've just written it, I would say put it away for a month or two, and then take it out and look at it again. The biggest thing about writing, I think, is rewriting and editing. It really is. And it can be drudgery for some, but it's what takes your writing to the next level. And I would definitely say read it again, see what you think, see how it looks. And if you think it's publishable, then you should really go to the next step of finding an editor to read it and paying them a little bit of money to do that. I've always been a do it yourself type of girl. But one thing I did find out with writing once you want to do a professional level publication, you really need to spend the X amount of hundreds of dollars to pay an editor, a professional to look through it. Because they can show you a lot of things that you had no clue that you missed, or maybe the book isn't laid out in the way that it should be, that will please the reader and make it easier to read and make it more understandable.

    Nicole: 13:10

    So how do we go about finding an editor? Is it something that we just Google, you know?

    Sandra: 13:15

    I've been lucky because I've been a writer. So I've had a friend who has helped me a lot. And you can have some people that, you know, read it if they are at that level. But that's really hard to say, I mean, because the thing that they always tell you is, oh, you know, don't have your friends and family read it and say it's great because they are going to, but I didn't have that happen to me because my daughters were raised around me being a writer, so they were tough editors. In fact, they would tell me "This sucks." You need to rewrite it. And I would say "No!" And then I would, you know, really think about what they said and usually it would be I didn't get this right. This doesn't sound right. My latest book, the collection of stories and essays through 20 years, I had worked and worked on those stories, rewritten them several times over. One of them was the winner in that contest. And I put them all together. It was 20 years worth of stories about raising kids, crops, and critters in the city. And I thought, Okay, I'm going to put all of these stories together in a book, finally, as one of my daughters suggested I finally do. And I had a friend, edit it. I paid her several hundred dollars, she gave me a break. She's a professional editor, and gave me the book and I read it. And I'm like, "Okay, it's good to go." I was very eager to get it done. And then my daughters read it and they said, "Mom, some of these stories are in past tense, and some are in present tense. And you need to rewrite some of these stories so that they're all past tense." And I was so aggravated. And I said "No." And I was real bratty about it and everything. And they said, "Sorry, Mom, but you know, we're just telling you, this is what needs to be done to make it a better book." And if you have friends or somebody like that, that will tell you the truth, then that's great. But otherwise, you do need to get a professional that will tell you that. And the best way to find one is, you know, word of mouth can be really great. But on Upwork, they have a lot of professional people that can design book covers, they can do the layout for you, if you want to put it on Amazon, you have to do a book layout. And they have editors there too, that will go through your whole manuscript as many times as you need to go through it and help you through it.

    Nicole: 15:49

    So after it's edited, what's the next step from there? Can we just submit it for printing or for publishing online or what's the process next?

    Sandra: 15:59

    It depends. If you You want a print book or an E-book, if you want an E-book, all you have to do is have your file formatted with the page, you know, the page numbering, and the headings on the top of the page and the chapter headings and the Table of Contents. And you know, all that stuff that you have to do to make it look like a book. It's called the guts of the book. And then you have to have a cover made for it. And you have to have an ISBN a number and it depends on if you want to publish it as you being the publisher, or you can get the ISBN number, which is the number that they use to keep track of the book and to record it in the system. You can get that for free, if you go through Amazon. It just depends on on what you want, as far as that. But I mean, there's a thousand little details that you have to attend to. But there's a lot of help out there too. So it's doable.

    Nicole: 17:00

    So let's say that I've written this book, I've paid several hundred dollars to an editor, I've spent however many months or years of my life putting this together. If I'm wanting to look at this as a business venture, is there the ability to make enough money to make it all worth it, I guess to put it simply?

    Sandra: 17:19

    Well, it depends on what you're doing. And for something like if you're a farmer, or if you have some expertise in a subject matter. What I have seen in the business is that people will have this book so that they can get paid for speaking, speaking to a group of people. It gives your enterprise more clout, more of a professional quality in some ways more interest, if you can tell your backstory of how I did this and where I came from and how I accomplish this, the way I understand it, because my stuff is more creative. And it's more for love. And I should have been, you know, I will tell everybody, I should have been doing speaking tours, but I'm the typical introverted, introverted writer, that I kind of like to live in my own head. And I don't like to, you know, do public speaking and stuff like that, which is something I'm getting over now, finally. But if I had known one thing, you know, 20 years ago, when it started that it would have been to be open to go out there and meet people, talk to them, do talks, at your libraries, do talk at events, you know, just get it out there. It just depends on what you want to do with your book. You know, but I think for a business matters, it does make you look like an expert in the subject that you're writing about. And you can grow your audience from there. But a lot of it is going to be like connecting with people, person to person or groups of people through events.

    Nicole: 19:06

    Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. Just thinking, as you said that of some of the people online, you know, the bloggers and things in my group, the ones that have had books, it definitely makes you look at them differently, I guess. Like you said more of an expert, even though there's plenty of experienced people that don't have books.

    Sandra: 19:26

    That's right.

    Nicole: 19:27

    And probably people that are more experienced that don't have books.

    Sandra: 19:30

    Yes, and that probably know more!

    Nicole: 19:34


    Sandra: 19:35

    But it does kind of show that you did this step and that you have something that you can use for marketing purposes. I've listened to some things on marketing and they talk about how you can have events where you talk but the price of admission might be you know, you have to buy a copy of my book or, or you get a free book, but the talks gonna be $20 dollars each or something like that. So it can be strictly a business mechanism to get a wider audience. And a good one.

    Nicole: 20:09

    Sure. So related to that, is there any other creative ways or other ways that you know of on how to market yourself published book?

    Sandra: 20:19

    I have tried several, I'm doing Facebook Ads. The thing with me, is I have been one of these people that have done everything. So marketing has not been my strong point, because I have been more involved in other aspects of creating the book and writing and I love to do writing more. So I'm just now learning a lot about those things. But really, the number one thing for marketing is just getting out in the world publicly. Because there's a lot of places that will take your money for advertising and it can be very, very expensive. And unless you're Martha Stewart or somebody like that, that can put a million dollars into a launch, it's very difficult to get noticed, especially in this time where there's millions of, you know, people doing the same thing.

    Nicole: 21:17

    So with your experience and your background in both writing and publishing, what are some other suggestions that you have for aspiring authors?

    Sandra: 21:27

    If you love it, just do it and keep at it, and do it for love. I mean, doing it for the money is fine, too, if you can do that. But honestly, we don't live in a type of society where artists are rewarded very handsomely, and you have to be kind of in the "in crowd" from what I have seen. So it's very difficult. It's just something that you do because you can't imagine not doing it. I've been writing now for 30 years and I can't imagine. It's part of my makeup, who I am. I love storytelling, I love thinking about what I'm going to do next., what I'm going to try next. A very good thing though I think for writers, aspiring writers would be find a good critique group. And that can be tricky too. Because a lot of times you'll find a group and the people will really like you and it'll be a friend type thing. And they won't be honest with you. They won't be, you know, give you the feedback that you need to learn to grow as a writer. So, just be on the lookout for that. If you don't feel like you're growing if you don't feel like your work is getting better if you're not getting more interest from publishers, and you can find people that will publish your work that, you know, blogs, online magazines, there's one here locally called "U.S. Represent" and it is run by an English professor at Pikes Peak Community College. And it's a great online magazine and he supports young and older age aspiring writers. And if you are hungry to have your work published and out there, and you have good ideas for stories, whether it's creative writing, or a poem or you know, an article, he will look at it. And there's, there's people out there, just keep doing it.

    Nicole: 23:34

    I imagine just like anything else, just yeah, eventually, eventually, it'll, it'll fall into place, but it takes some persistence.

    Sandra: 23:42

    It does. And it takes daring and I think artists kind of have a hard deal because you do want to create, and yet you're also supposed to be like a public persona. So it's hard to balance those and I think that's where a lot of people kind of falter, that's where I falter. So...

    Nicole: 24:02

    I'm the same way. I'm, I'm very introverted. I'm trying so hard to put myself out there, you know, things like this podcast and social media and stuff.

    Sandra: 24:13

    Oh, yeah.

    Nicole: 24:13

    But it's really hard for me and I find it very emotionally exhausting and I just want to hide and put out content and not have to do any more than that.

    Sandra: 24:26

    I know. And it's just the times that we live in. But maybe that's how it's always been, it probably has. You know, if you look at the famous artists of the past, most of them weren't hiding out, you know, they were the ones that would get out in the public eye and, and do things and, you know, be seen and be heard. So, the squeaky wheel...

    Nicole: 24:49

    It's personal growth, even if you don't like it.

    Sandra: 24:52

    Yes, it is and it is it really is it pushing yourself, doing things that you don't that are outside of your comfort zone. Totally. Yeah, that's what grows you as a person. And I think a lot of the fears that people feel once you are out there a few times you find out that those fears had no basis. People just want to be entertained. They just want to hear a story. They're not judging you that much. It's just a human thing. You know, the shy people are, you know, just reluctant, but they're the ones that need to be heard the most right now... I think I really do.

    Nicole: 25:39

    Yeah, I would agree with that.

    Sandra: 25:42

    Yeah, it's not, you know, the people that are the wildest or have no thoughts whatsoever about going out and telling people this or that it's the ones you know, or are a little afraid of that that do need to be heard in these times. So at least that's my theory. of today.

    Nicole: 26:01

    Yes, I think it sounds reasonable. I'll I will concur!

    Sandra: 26:06

    Two introverts concur! No, it's great that you're doing this podcast.

    Nicole: 26:12

    Oh, thank you.

    Sandra: 26:13

    It's fun, too. It's fun. And I see what you're putting out there, and that is valuable information for people. And it's entertaining, and they're learning something. And I've listened to some of your podcasts and I've learned things and that's what it's all about.

    Nicole: 26:29

    That's my goal: to inspire and encourage and connect people, you know. And that's why I like talking to people like you who are experts in certain things because I have my very tiny world that I can talk somewhat intelligently about but I only know a little about a little and so talking to amazing guests like you and getting some information out there and not only getting the, the selfish ability to ask you the questions I have and to be able to learn myself, but also hopefully sharing that information with others because I think that there's a shortage of good information. And that's my big goal is to get good information out there for folks so that they can hopefully change their lives for the better whether it's helping their chickens be healthier, or publish their own book or grow a better garden or, or whatever it may be.

    Sandra: 27:22

    That's the nobel goal, it is. And that's what it's all about. I think sharing your information, sharing your life, connecting with others, let's all help each other. Let's all learn from each other's mistakes and experiences and successes. So...

    Nicole: 27:38

    And I definitely have plenty of failures, more failures, for sure.

    Sandra: 27:41

    Yes, that's right. Me too. If you're a gardener and you haven't killed like hundreds and hundreds of plants, then you really don't know very much you just don't, sorry. The main things I really want to encourage people to tell stories. And if we could just learn from previous generations, I think it's important that the older generations step up and tell their experiences. This is more, maybe on a personal note, you know, people that have made mistakes in their life. And it's okay to share the mistakes because that's how we learn. And that's how we pass on wisdom. And it's not only the successes and "Look how great I am," and I did this and that, you know, we it's true, we learned more from our failures. So don't be afraid to write about that. Because, you know, I think that does lift people up when they see, that's the whole story. You know, people struggle and struggle, and then they finally make it. I don't know if that makes any sense.

    Nicole: 28:51

    No, it does to see somebody that maybe we look up to or that we rely on for information or entertainment or advice or whatever that person may be providing to see that it's not just all perfect that they're still a person with things that have happened, good, bad and otherwise, and their failures and their thoughts and opinions. I think that that's really nice to see that, like I said, they are real people.

    Sandra: 29:15

    Well, and I think we live in a culture where we only celebrate the successes, and we see people that have made it as writers or artists, or athletes or farmers or whatever. And we don't see the 20 year struggle that they had before that and the times that they wanted to quit or what they had to do different to solve problems. You know, we don't see the problem solving. We don't see the walls that they come up against and have to figure out how to get over them, you know, so we need more of that.

    Nicole: 29:49

    Yes. More reality and less smoke and mirrors and glitter and, you know, I agreed. Well, I know that one the wonderful things that you are going to do for our listeners is to share a special download. So everybody that's listening, be sure to check the Show Notes for that download, it's going to be a limited time offer. So make sure you jump on it right away so that you don't miss out. It's a very special gift from Sandra. So, on behalf of the listeners, I'll say thank you for for sharing that little surprise with them.

    Sandra: 30:27

    You're welcome. And now that I think about it, I might have a couple of surprises,

    Nicole: 30:32

    Ooh, exciting!

    Sandra: 30:33

    Maybe I have a couple of handouts about the different types of publishing because there's three different types of publishing. There's traditional publishing, there's self publishing, and then there's something called hybrid publishing. So I think people might be interested in reading about that and learning about the different kinds if they are really interested in publishing a book, which I hope many are.

    Nicole: 30:58

    Yeah, that sounds great, I know it's something that I will be taking advantage of. So, again, check out the Show Notes for those links and more information. And Sandra, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. This has been very insightful, and definitely, I think a good starting place for somebody that's interested in getting published, which, like you said, hopefully a lot of people will want to do.

    Sandra: 31:23

    Thank you so much, Nikolas has been great. I hope to be on your show again one day.

    Nicole: 31:27

    Definitely. And be sure to check out Sandra's books at either your local library or online and I'll put links to all of her works as well so that you can find those. And for those of you listening at home, thank you so much for joining us for another episode, and we will see you again next week.

    Announcer: 31:45

    Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show. please email us at [email protected]. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week!

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