Would it be easier to “talk your book” or to slave away for years trying to write it? A few months back my friend Gail Howard Gibson invited me to attend her book group. Although I was there to discuss my short story collection, Bond’s of Love & Blood, one thing led to another, and soon I found myself enlisted on behalf of Gail and the beautiful quilt that hung on her wall. Tomorrow, in honor of NATIONAL QUILTING DAY, she’s launching her new book. God’s Gift Within: The Story of the Joshua Quilt.
This is a book we created together. I’ll walk you through the exact process we used. For some of you, this might very well be the best way for you to “get your story out.” This process would also work very well if you’re creating a book for a family member. As long as one of you can ask questions and the other can answer, you can “talk your book.”
Why Did We Choose to Talk a Book?
I’m a writer, not a publisher, but Gail’s desire to tell the story of her quilt just struck at my heart. She grew up in the South, and she has a natural, storytelling voice. That’s one of her most important assets. She also knew what she wanted to say. Here’s the back cover copy.
This is the story of a journey–the personal journey of a woman of faith. While caring for her aged mother and dealing with a cross-country move, quilter and Bible study leader Gail Howard Gibson drew on fifty years of quilting experience to create The Joshua Quilt.
I had some software I’d just bought, but I had never used it. The software is Jim Edwards’ 3 Hour Kindle Book Wizard. The software is designed for folks who want to create nonfiction books. It uses an interview format and gives you a ton of templates to create interview questions, back cover copy, a book blurb, and much more.
Jim explains the process far better than I can in these detailed tutorials.
What’s the Story?
As with any book of nonfiction, whether a how-to book or a memoir, the author must decide what the book is about. Then she or he must stay “on topic.” By structuring the interview as a series of questions, and by thinking about what kind of person would enjoy this book, Gail and I were able to not veer off on tangents.
That doesn’t mean the book is strictly linear. In fact, Gail talks about her childhood, early needlework experiences, and faith community. With fifty years of quilting and Bible study, Gail is the true expert. I just served as her amanuensis.
Gail came over to my house and we sat with a microphone between us. I asked questions, and Gail launched into her story. It was about as painless as “writing a book” could possibly be.
As to the microphone, I used an Ultimate USB microphone by Blue Yeti.
The microphone runs about $135, but it was well worth it. The quality of the recording was excellent. In a couple of months, I’ll go back to Jim’s tutorials and produce an Audible edition.
Gail and I met three days in a row. We spoke for about two hours. After that we ran out of steam.
What I learned was that we had to just keep talking. It’s tempting to stop and start, but I didn’t want to interrupt the recording. Soon, we were just talking like old friends, and that quality of easy conversation comes through in the book.
The next step was getting the interview transcribed. Jim pointed me to Rev.com, a service that returned virtually error free text to me within 24 hours. Since then I’ve also found another transcriber who’s just fantastic. She’s Kathy Whitman of Talk to the Hand Transcription.
A transcription service will return to you a clean text or Microsoft Word file. The punctuation and spelling will be 99.9% accurate, probably more accurate than if Gail had written the book by hand. The only word that didn’t get transcribed correctly was “batik.” The transcriber thought it was “boutique.”
In the event you don’t have people you can call on to help, don’t worry. Jim Edwards provides names of designers, too. I could also have gone to Fiverr.com and searched for cover designers.
Although Bob Ryan designed the interior layout for the book, it would have been an option to use The Book Designers‘ templates. Or, you could create the book in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) by uploading a Word file.
KDP has a new option that transforms an ebook into a print book. In the case of Gail’s book, I knew that Christiaan Blok had provided some beautiful photos.
I wasn’t sure how the text and images would relate to one another, and it was important to the author that readers see clearly how her explanations related to particular squares. In addition, I feared that Amazon wouldn’t give the author the color quality this book deserved. Thus, I opted to produce the book on Blurb. The color quality is exceptional, and that’s despite me choosing to keep the price down by using economy paper.
The Hiccup of the ISBNs
I had used Blurb to create a little book called Postcards Home. It’s basically a book illustrating the short stories in Bonds of Love & Blood. If you want to preview it in full screen mode, you’ll be able to read the whole book for free. For my little book, I didn’t care whether it had a proper ISBN. Blurb provides “free” ISBNs.
Gail’s book was more complicated. It was longer and packed with illustrations. I wanted to make sure Gail had a book whose copyright she officially owned, so I bought a block of ISBNs from Bowker.
I finished formatting the book and assigned an ISBN to the book. The instant I hit “publish,” I discovered a typo. Too late! Blurb doesn’t let you make additional revisions once you publish the book
I wanted a clean copy on Amazon. Thus, I wound up having to reformat the book and upload a clean Word file. For that I used one of The Book Designer’s templates. I suppose it’s a truism in publishing that the only way to find all the errors in a book is to publish it.
A Landing Page
The book needed a home on the web. I set up a landing page on Booklaunch.io. I like this site because it’s easy to enter the information, and it has just enough to give readers a sense of whether they’d like the book or not. Gail is just getting started with her blog at www.thejoshuaquilt.com, and I was getting worried that she might not have it live by the time of her book launch.
I went to two of my favorite sites for professionally written reviews. Amazon’s terms of service don’t allow professional reviewers to post on Amazon, but Readers’ Favorite gave her book glowing, 5-star reviews. Diane Donovan, reviewing for Midwest Book Review, also raved about the book. Her review will appear in April. (Just as aside, let me mention that Midwest Book Review has a ton of info about free ways to promote books on the internet.
The Bottom Line
What did I learn from this experience? To take Gail’s message to heart. I’m looking at the gifts helping create this book provided. I’m proud of the book and very glad to have a new friend. I also learned the following:
- Amazon’s not the only game in town. (Blurb publishes to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.)
- It would have been less work to farm out the production work to some of the people in Jim Edwards’ stable.
- There’s always more to do in getting a book launched than you could ever imagine.
That’s it! That’s how Gail happened to “talk a book” Tomorrow, she’s celebrating National Quilt Day with a book launch party. And, then we’re going to take a deep breath. The book’s available now from all online bookstores, including Amazon and Blurb. If you read it, please take a moment to leave a review.
If you’d like a bit more info about the content, head on over to my caregiving blog. And please leave a comment on either site. As you can well imagine, Gail had to create her quilt in “stolen moments.” That’s something most authors have to do, too. We create our works of art in bits and pieces.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.