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The making of Happiness in Okinawa is … Part 2

Publishing a book is a daunting task, especially if you are a first-time author.

In part one of this series, I share with you why I chose Happiness as the topic. In the next few parts of the series, I will deep dive into how I make it happen.

As a first time author myself, I had no idea what is involved in putting my book on the shelf. The good news is many people have published books, so I did the obvious – I went to a nearby bookstore to learn how to publish a book. For each book I pick up, I look for information about the publisher. I also look at what is printed beside the content. Every book in the store seems to be very well put together. Besides the content, each book also has a professionally designed cover, information about the publisher, a universal identification code called ISBN, a barcode for commercial transactions, the price for the local market, legal statement. I write down everything I see, and now I have a checklist for publishing my first book. Everything on the checklist seem straightforward, except working with a publisher. What is a publisher anyway? Do I have to have one? 

Traditional publishing vs self-publishing

If you want to publish a book, here is the first thing you need to understand. It is one thing to create a book, and it is another to publish it. You can make a book without ever publishing it, and there are people that publish books all the time without writing a word in any of the books they publish. A publisher is a person or a company that will make a book with the content I create, print a lot of copies, and sell them. A publisher has access to knowledge and expertise in making a book. A publisher, usually, also has an existing sales channel such as relationships with many bookstores to sell the book once it is printed. Publishing with the help from a publisher is known as traditional publishing. With traditional publishing, usually, it means I hand the content to the publisher, and they take care of the rest.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, is to do the publisher’s job by myself. The more I learn about the pros and cons of both options, the more I lean towards self-publishing.

Self-publishing is not better than traditional publishing. My choice has a lot to do with my goal in this particular case. Happiness in Okinawa is… is not for everyone, but a very unique group of people – people who love Okinawa. It is unlikely to be a popular book in a large market, but it has little completion on its niche. If I put Happiness in Okinawa is …  in front of the right audience, chances are good that she cares very little about the logistics of it. But, before I start the journey of self-publishing my first book, I want to know what to expect, so I turn to other experienced authors for their opinions.

What to expect with traditional publishing

Here is the process of traditional publishing. I need to submit a proposal to a book publisher. In fact, most likely, to multiple publishers. If one of them likes my idea and believes that I can deliver, we will enter an agreement therefore I deliver the book on time. After that, the publisher will take care of the production and distribution of the book. I get paid very little from traditional publishing because the publisher is doing most of the work.

There are many book publishers in Japan. A trip to the bookstore and I can find one on the cover of every book. In order to get from where I am to working with a Japanese publisher, I can already envision so many hurdles I need to push through. My target audience is very specific and they are not bounded to a specific location. I’ve got a list of all the criteria’s what the perfect book publisher for me would look like, but I can’t find any publisher that fits the profile. I turned to a friend who worked with a publisher to publish a popular book in Okinawa for advice. Turns out of the publisher she worked with wasn’t much of a publisher, it’s more like a publishing consultant. She ended up having to pick up a lot of sales and marketing work the publisher is supposed to do.

Traditional publishing vs self-publishing, In the case of Happiness in Okinawa is…, it comes down to what a publisher can do for me that I cannot do for myself.

Can I design a book?

Yes, and I know a lot of people who can if I don’t want to do it.

Can I print a book in large quantity?

Yes. In fact, there are printers that will let me print any quantity from one to infinity as long as I can come up with the money.

Do I have the money to cover the cost for design, print, and marketing upfront?

No, but I will find the money somewhere. I will dig deeper on how to “find money” for my projects in a different blog post.

Do I have the ability to put Happiness in Okinawa is… in front of its ideal audience cheaply and efficiently?

Yes and No. I don’t have direct access to all of them, but I do have the ability to put on the shelf in the store where they shop.

A couple of important points to add. They don’t make traditional publishing or self-publishing one better than the other, but something to consider while I was weighing the options.

With self-publishing, I get to keep most of the profits so I can generate the revenue necessary to push my business to the next level. 

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty with production and marketing, traditional publishing is a better choice. I am the type of person that wants to know and experience how things work. Self-publishing working better for me, because I get to learn and do a lot during the process. 

The real (self-fish) reason for publishing a book

Making a book is just the beginning. A book is an invitation to other products that I have to offer. My goal is not selling books, my goal is to find out who buys a book like Happiness in Okinawa is… Because they are the people what would most likely be interested in other Okinawa focus products I produce. 

A lot of details going into self-publishing. I’m going to zoom in to a few obstacles that I face in future blog articles in the series. If you want to know how I tackle each one of these challenges, make sure you subscribe to future updates

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