For many, there’s been a book in your heart since childhood. For others, it’s a dream that only recently seems like a possibility.

Then there’s me… the accidental author.

In 2013, I launched an online art gallery as my first business. It featured Southern artists, including my friend Rebecca Phillips. One day, I got an email from a book editor pitching the idea of turning Rebecca’s Memphis Type Illustrated paintings into a book. Rebecca was thrilled and invited me to be the author. I was running a business and had just quit my “real job” to freelance.

It’s hard to know what to do in the moment, but some opportunities might not come around again. So I said, “yes.”

So for those of you who want to see your name in print more than anything else, here’s my story from the author’s side of Amazon.

Make A LOT of room for writing a book.

Balancing my responsibilities to my business, my clients, our editor, my partner in the endeavor, my family and friends—oh, and myself—was really tough. Writing a book was simply a lot more work than I expected. The experience was definitely a season of unbalance, to say the least.

As the deadline for the manuscript crept closer, I got up earlier and earlier to squeeze in more writing time. I stumbled into my home office at 4:00 am one morning in my usual sleep-deprived fog. As I opened the window for some fresh air, the alarm immediately went off and, in my mind, woke the entire neighborhood before I could run downstairs and turn it off.

When alarm bells ring, you can’t help but listen.

To make my book happen, I stopped growing my freelance business. When we found out that our completed manuscript had more creative flair than our publishers were used to marketing, we decided to self-publish. I immediately closed my art business to make room for running the book launch. I had learned my lesson after all!

Write something you would actually want to read.

Because we planned our book well, I was able to write nineteen chapters over several months in a consistent voice. I could recognize when to toss a chapter and start over, even for the third time. We were decisive about the book’s layout and cover design because we knew our goals and our reader. And, perhaps most importantly, I knew which well-meaning suggestions to take and which ones to put aside.

If you’re writing something you actually enjoy reading, the endless rewrites will feel less endless. Your positive energy will rub off on others when you talk about your book. You will genuinely feel good about selling it.

Loving your book starts when you’re planning it... before you even write a word. Click To Tweet

Writing a book for a publisher who will support your PR, sales, marketing, and distribution is completely different than self-publishing. If you’re going to do #allthethings, then you better love that box of books you’ll haul to every bookstore and gift shop in town that caters to your audience.

Get braver.

I was constantly thinking about how to write history in a way that wasn’t boring. I desperately wanted to fulfill Rebecca’s artistic vision for how her art would fit alongside the words I was writing. Working on something you are equally excited about and intimidated by makes it really difficult to complete the task at hand. It requires strength to stay confident in what you produced while accepting critique that can improve it.

In the craziness of learning how to self-publish while doing it in real-time, the fact that my book would be for sale never felt real. It wasn’t until we got our first proof in the mail that it hit me.

Publishing a book was the first time I created something to put out into the world that had my name on it. And it kind of freaked me out. I suddenly realized that I was going to get emails critiquing various things. Every time I picked the darn thing up to re-read a section, I found yet another typo. The scariest of all? People were going to review my book online.

I had to be secure in the fact that my book was never going to be perfect and wholeheartedly put it out there anyway.

That’s when it all came together. In making room to write a book, I embarked on an unexpected journey that culminated in me learning to be okay putting something out in the world that is, in a way, a lot bigger than me. Something that would become its own thing to everyone who engaged with it.

Cultivating the sort of bravery it takes to do that has probably done a lot more for me in life and business than having “author” by my name ever will.

 

Yes, I slowed down some important things. I ended others. All my choices along the way to just keep going and do the work blossomed into a form of bravery I didn’t have before. You’ll have that same bravery once your book is finished and you find yourself signing copies destined for Christmas trees, speaking with confidence live on the news, and, of course, selling, selling, selling!

So don’t wait any longer. Grab a pen and start planning!

Want to check out my book? Find it at www.memphistypehistory.com or on Amazon!

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Caitlin is a brand strategist and designer for entrepreneurs, community builders, and creative professionals who want to grow thoughtfully and strategically. She is also the author of Memphis Type History: Signs and Stories from Just Around the Corner. Find out more about her strategy and design services at caitlinlhorton.com.

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