Blogging My Book: Forming a Winning Team

My forthcoming book, City Nature, is a self-publishing project, and I’ve been involved in self-publishing since the mid-1980s. I know that if you want to win this game, you need a team. The team goal? Make City Nature the best book it can be. So, let’s meet my seven team members.

Number one, from suburban Atlanta, Peter Bowerman. He’s the author The Well-Fed Self Publisher, and it’s the foundational text in the field. Highly recommended.

Since City Nature also is an entrepreneurial venture, I’ve gotten a lot of help from our local business incubator, Startup Tucson.

At a couple of Startup Tucson events, I heard presentations by Carrie Seid, a veteran arts educator, working artist, and creativity consultant. I asked her to become my mentor, and I read the entire book manuscript aloud to her. Carrie had tons of feedback, so this read-aloud process took the better part of a year. She also helped me winnow hundreds of my best photos down to the 63 that appear in the City Nature book.

Here’s another self-publishing lesson: Yes, you can write and publish your book, but you need an editor. You’re much too close to your own work, and you need someone who’s detached. So, I turned to a local colleague whom I’ve known for nearly 20 years. That would be word maven Elena Acoba. Her level-headed approach to editing and proofreading was exactly what City Nature needed, and I wish her well on her latest adventure, retirement.

In addition to being this book’s photographer and writer, I am its designer, For this part of the project, I used the Affinity Publisher software. I’ve used Publisher before, but this was my first book project. In order to get the book design started on the right foot, I watched Dave Conrey’s YouTube tutorials on Affinity Publisher. I also consulted with him via Zoom. Dave’s an artist and graphic designer in Long Beach, California, and he really helped me out. I also had Carrie Seid go over my layout with a fine-tooth comb.

Since I mentioned Affinity Publisher, let’s talk about book indexes. Yes, Publisher can generate one, but professional indexers can catalog a book’s information in much greater detail than software. And, if you’re like me and looking to sell books to libraries, detailed indexes are a huge selling point. That’s why I did an online search for an experienced – and Tucson-based – professional indexer, and I found Cynthia Coan. Highly recommended.

And last but certainly not least, there’s Bob Bunge, my account rep at AZ Litho, our best local book printer. I met Bob at a trade show in 2019, and we stayed in touch. Bob has been my patient guide through the printing process.

Here’s a bonus tip from Bob: Don’t just do your design and throw it over the wall to your printer! Bob and AZ Litho urged me to share my book design from the beginning – and as I went along. Their feedback was very helpful.

Okay, let’s recap. The seven-member excellence in self-publishing team:

  1. Foundational text in the field
  2. Business incubator
  3. Mentor
  4. Editor
  5. Design helper
  6. Indexer
  7. Printer’s account rep

They did a great job, but there’s one job that always rests on my shoulders. That is is quality control.

For example, I found some typos in the second of two printer’s proofs. At this point in book production, Elena was done. So, it was my job to fix things. How did I do that? I read the proof aloud – from front to back and from back to front. I marked the typos in the proof, and then I fixed them in the Affinity Publisher files.

In conclusion, City Nature started as a 2018 self-assignment focused on plant life supported by water harvesting. It grew into an eclectic book about food, water, cookies, flowers, bees, even bicycles. And here’s my big announcement: Press Day will happen sometime next week, at AZ Litho.

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