Welcome to the second part of this short series on how I wrote and published my debut book Find Your Stride over the course of a year. In this next part, we’ll take a look at the publishing route I decided to take on this specific book project, hybrid publishing. If you haven’t read part I on my writing process and first draft, I’d suggest starting there.
After I finished the first very rough draft of my manuscript, I had to decide how I wanted to bring the book to market—a surprisingly daunting task. My gut reaction was to take the self-publishing route, recruiting variegated professionals to help with the different stages (such as editing, cover design, etc.). Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried plan, right? After conversations with friends and mentors, I realized that the self-publishing route would require a surfeit of DIY labour—from formatting the book, creating seller pages, uploading to Amazon, etc. On the flip side of the coin was the traditional publishing path, a route I didn’t really want to go (and was also pessimistic about even landing).
If I attempted to go the latter route (traditional publishing), I would have had to put together a robust book proposal and source an agent to help pitch my book to various publishers. The whole process isn’t an easy as a “straight to market” plan, since traditional publishing isn’t quick. I didn’t want to have to wait a few years in order to get my passion project out into the world.
It was my cousin who introduced to me to a third (and my favourite) approach: working with a hybrid publisher. Major credit to my cousin, Sara, who introduced me to the route that was the right fit for me. In short, a hybrid publisher is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid between traditional publishing and self-publishing. The biggest differences are (a) time to market is much quicker than working with a traditional publisher (b) the required proposal was much shorter than what’s required for traditional publishing (c) I didn’t need to find an agent (I could submit myself), and (d) the author assumes more risk by investing in the editing, design, marketing, etc. upfront, but takes a more substantial royalty on book sales when published. I could get into more detail here, but what was most appealing to me was working with a team of experts who have been in the book publishing industry for years and getting the book into market in a relatively short time-frame (while being cognizant not to rush the process and do it right).
Sara told me about a few colleagues who worked with Greenleaf Book Group, a leading hybrid publisher based out of Austin, TX. before submitting my proposal, I decided to do my own research on the publisher: looking up some of their titles, reading reviews, taking a deep dive into the authors they’ve worked with, etc. Of course, since it was a warm introduction given the glowing reviews my cousin gave, I felt pretty confident I wanted to work with them from the get-go. My cousin Sara, by the way, has been a mentor to me throughout this whole process. She’s a prolific keynote speaker in the field of leadership vitality and emotional intelligence—she’s absolutely brilliant and on that ground, I trust her judgment whole-heartedly.
After conducting my semi-rigorous due diligence on Greenleaf, I decided I wanted to take the plunge and submit a proposal. One of the appealing parts of the submission process is, despite having to financially invest in the book myself, Greenleaf is very selective with the books and authors they take on; in fact, they proceed with less than 10% of overall submissions. To me, this was an indication that they only invest in quality books they believe in, rather than being in the business of pumping out any kind of literature (the good or the bad) with a price tag.
After about a week or so, I received an email from a consultant at Greenleaf and set up an initial touchbase. Daniel, a consultant, had mentioned him and his team discussed my proposal and were very interested in the project—which might have been the biggest confidence boost ever. With Greenleaf, I had the option to choose which services I wanted à la carte. For me, I wanted the quality of the manuscript to be top notch and knew that I couldn’t do this alone; I wanted a team of editorial experts reading, revising and modifying my book to help it get to it’s top potential. So I received a proposal for editorial services, marketing (cover and interior layout design, help with Amazon and seller pages), and also distribution (through River Grove).
I’mma be straight up with you guys, this was not a small price tag; sticker shock was an understatement. While I won’t get into specifics here, let me just say that I could have either worked with Greenleaf on this book or put a down payment on a home. But it’s all about what you value in life, right? The former is way more exciting and in-line with my long-term goals. After a bit of reflection and consulting with those closest to me, I made the affirmative decision to pull the trigger and work with Greenleaf.
And let me tell you, I have zero regrets.
Working with Greenleaf
During the kick-off, I was introduced to my project manager and editorial team which consisted of a lead editor, developmental editor, copy editor, and proofreader. The first step was to send over my rough manuscript to the developmental editor. Her main role was to help with the structural flow of the book, ensuring it was fluid, cohesive and essentially, didn’t read like word vomit on a page. She made suggestions on where to move sections around and where to omit sections, where to add or expand upon others. I think this process took about a month overall.
After the developmental edit, we moved on to the copyedit which is a combination of substantial edits (sentence structure flow), grammar, and syntax. The copy edit took a few months and we wrapped up the main book edits early December. The last step was the proofreading which was done by another individual (to have fresh eyes on the book). There were two rounds of proofreading and the last stage wrapped up in mid-February. There were so many hands on this book—it truly was a team effort. Like I said, I harbored enough humility throughout this process to realize that in order to elevate this book to its best potential, I couldn’t do it alone. Working with a professional team who are experts in their craft gave me part comfort and part reassurance that the book I’d be releasing into the world would be at its top quality.
In addition to the editorial services, I also contracted Greenleaf to help with the book marketing; that is, with the cover design/cover copy, interior, layout, page design, page composition, and e-book conversion. I also wanted some help with the seller pages (Amazon, Goodreads, etc.). Greenleaf also offers paid marketing services, but since I’m a freelance digital marketer, I decided to tackle the paid advertising myself.
The book cover and marketing was done at the same time as the edit. I had a brief call with the cover designer to give her an idea of the style/aesthetics of the books I like, some thoughts on what I was looking for, and then sent her some of my favorite book covers. Within about a week she sent over 4 designs, which were all amazing (as shown below):
It was honestly so difficult to choose which one to go with, so I opted for a peer poll. After a bit of deliberation with a few people closest to me, I decided to opt for the gym floor cover. Since those in my IG community know I’m big into running, and since the book is called “Find Your Stride,” I wanted to be cognizant not to portray the book as a running-specific book. While I do talk about running (naturally), the book is more geared towards fitness (training/nutrition) on a broader scale. We made about 4 rounds of minor changes to the cover I chose (font, colours, props in the back, etc.) before it was finalized.
After the book cover was chosen, I was sent through a snippet of what the interior layout looked like. To be candid, it looked perfect the first round so I made zero changes. The last step, which was done concomitantly with the final proofread, was the back cover design and copy. I made a few edits myself and that wrapped up the production side of the book.
Within my contract, I receive 25 hard copies of Find Your Stride which I received a day before my publication and let me tell you: holding a physical copy of the finished product felt so surreal. To start with a rough idea in my mind then seeing those ideas materialized into a physical, hard copy of the book, felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before—it was truly indescribable in the best possible way.
As many writers can relate, the production of the book is just the beginning. The most daunting task of all to me was the marketing and distribution side—getting the book into the hands of readers in the most cost-effective way possible—something I’m still figuring out as I go. Luckily, I have the support and knowledge from the incredible team at Greenleaf to help guide the way, but it’s no easy task.
If you are interested in writing a book and uncertain on the publishing route you want to take, Greenleaf wrote a great article on What are my Publishing Options that highlights the pros and cons of traditional, self-publishing, and hybrid—I encourage you to check it out. The hybrid option was the perfect fit for my book goals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best route for you. Hybrid publishing does require an upfront financial investment and more of a risk tolerance (you take on more risk than the publisher), but as I said, you are rewarded with access to an incredible talented team, top notch quality piece of work, and substantially higher book royalties vs. traditional. If you decide to go hybrid, Greenleaf is the most reputable in the industry and I can’t say enough good things. If you have any more questions regarding this process, feel free to send me an email directly 🙂