Why Am I Writing This?

At some point in the process, frustrated by writer’s block or the editing process, you may find yourself asking this question. But that’s not the existential dilemma we want to address here.

We want to point out that before you start, and throughout the writing and editing process, “Why am I writing this?” is a critical question.  When you think about why you are writing, it becomes clearer what you should write—what details should be included; how much background research you need to do; whether you want to use direct quotes or instead summarize events without dialogue; whether you start at the beginning and present details factually and in chronological order or go with a less formal structure and include thoughts and feelings along with the facts—and even what details, events or people you leave out.

So think about it…

  • Are you writing to preserve events for posterity?
  • Are you writing so that your family can understand their history or your own personal life journey?
  • Are you writing to share your expertise or remarkable life experience?
  • Are you writing for the therapeutic value of capturing emotions and events?
  • Are you writing to “set the record straight” or prove something?
  • Are you writing because you found something fascinating and you want to share your discovery?

Writing is a wonderful exercise. It can help us organize information, process thoughts and emotions, preserve stories and communicate information. But while anything can be a valid reason to write it’s not always the right decision to publish.

Which brings us to the follow-up to “Why am I writing this?” which is “What will I do with it when I’m done?”

  • Will you file it away for your own eyes only?
  • Will you share it with a few friends and your family members?
  • Will you make it available to complete strangers?

Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, remember to think about why you’re writing and how much of it you plan to share with others. And if you find yourself stuck in the writing process, go back and rethink your “whys”—you may find that they will help you figure out what it is, exactly, you are trying to say.

This spring, Legacy Isle Publishing’s parent imprint, Watermark Publishing, will release an as-yet-untitled guide to writing memoir from bestselling author Darien Gee. This guide will address critical topics concerning writing, specifically with the Hawai‘i memoir writer in mind, as well as provide helpful exercises and advice from published authors. If this blog post has gotten your writing wheels turning, you’ll want to check back with us throughout 2014 as we post excerpts from the guide and guest posts from author Darien Gee.

Considering an Author Website?

Recently, we’ve been finding ourselves having conversations with our authors about author websites. “Should I do a website? Can YOU do a website FOR me?” We get that a lot. Here are a few bits of advice on whether a website is appropriate for you, as an author, and if so, what you should include.

SHOULD I HAVE AN AUTHOR WEBSITE?

Ask yourself this first: What would I do with my website? If the only reason you are considering a website is because your friends or family asked if you have one or you think you “should”…then you probably shouldn’t.

If your book offers information on a specialized topic, or is a memoir or biography that addresses moments in history or life experiences that are popular topics, a website has the potential to bring attention to your book from people searching online for further information.

If you will be handling distribution on your own (i.e. selling books yourself) or plan on offering speaking engagements or workshops, a simple website is probably a good idea. It is also an easy way for your network of contacts to spread the word about your book — if they like it, or simply want to help support you, they can easily share a link.

If you offer expertise on a particular topic and the idea of updating and adding new, timely content on a regular basis appeals to you, a blog is a great way to expand upon your book contents and build an audience.

We advocate for an author site, rather than a book-specific site, for two main reasons: 1) Who knows, you may find yourself writing another book! It’s easier to add another book to an author site than it is to create another site for a new book. 2) Many of our authors are professionals with expertise in a specific field and often have an established business. Some have an existing business site and some do not. For those who don’t, building a site under their own name allows them to promote both their book and their business and make the two work synergistically.

WHAT SHOULD BE ON MY AUTHOR WEBSITE?

Include the basics:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you qualified to write this book (or what makes it special, if it is a memoir/biography)?
  • Where can the book be purchased?
  • How does someone contact you?

From there, you can consider adding:

  • Testimonials on your expertise (for advice books)
  • A blog
  • An events calendar
  • Information on speaking engagements or workshops
  • Excerpts, photographs and/or video
  • Social media links

Keep your site simple. Fancy bells and whistles are nice, but they can cost you a lot of money to incorporate and aren’t as easy to change as simpler design elements. They also may not work as expected across different platforms and devices. Quality information is a better sales tool than a spiffy video montage.

SHOULD I DO MY SITE MYSELF?

That depends — how much time are you willing to devote to maintaining your site? If you don’t already know how to use simple website management programs, such as WordPress, are you willing to learn? Are you willing to pay someone to do this for you? How often do you expect to be updating your site? Are you thinking about e-commerce?

Time — Managing a site on your own requires that you put in a time investment. You’ll have to design it and then you’ll have to maintain it. WordPress offers a basic, free option that can get you up-and-running right away with very little effort, as do other platforms and services.

Know-how — Using a simple platform, like WordPress, is easy for most people to master. The interface is simple to use and doesn’t require a lot of tech know-how. (We use WordPress to run this very blog.) Most blogging templates offer you an option to create an attractive homepage in addition to your blog. For a little more investment, you can claim your own URL and get rid of ad placements. Although WordPress is predominantly known as a blogging platform, it can be used to create and administer a simple website without including a blog. SquareSpace is another platform that allows simple site creation and optional blogging capability. In addition, it allows the incorporation of e-commerce (more on that below). However, unlike WordPress, it does not have a free option. Again, platforms like these are simple and user-friendly and many guides exist to help you through the process. But if you’re the kind of person who has problems with adding attachments to email, you probably want to enlist the help of a tech-savvy friend or relative, or hire a professional.

Paying someone else — If you’re willing to spend the money to hire someone else to set up (and possibly maintain) your site, great! Having someone else do the set up work often makes authors feel more comfortable, even if they plan to take over updating the site on their own. Note that while you can create your own site and even get hosting for free using many popular services, adding “extras” can incur charges. If you don’t understand what web hosting is; if the idea of trying to decide what is and isn’t worth paying for is daunting—these are good reasons to talk to a professional, outline what you want and consider using their services to handle site creation for you. If you would prefer to have your site hosted somewhere other than a free service, you will either need a working knowledge of how to do this on your own, or you’ll need to hire a professional.

Updating — Hiring someone for the set up is all well and good, but depending on what sorts of updates you plan to make—and how often you plan to make them—you may need some basic lessons in managing your own site. Professional site designers and web managers will charge you when you want to make changes. If you want to put up a new photo every month and you aren’t going to do it yourself, be aware that it will cost you. If you plan on a simple informational site with no future changes, you shouldn’t have any problems, but look into options that incorporate a Google calendar so you can add events on your own. We consider site updates—changing/adding images or video, adding new information (like events, press coverage or new books)—different from blogging. Blogs should be updated regularly with new, interesting content. Blog content should be original and generated by you (or if this is for a business, a representative of your company). If you don’t plan on regular updates, consider a simple news announcement section on your site that a web manager can update for you.

E-commerce — Authors who are not signed up for the Legacy Isle Distribution Service should think about how they want to handle book sales. Perhaps you’ll be working directly with a store or two, or a community group to sell books in a physical store. Maybe you want to accept mail orders only. Or, you could sign up with Amazon and sell through their site. The final option is to allow online purchases of your book directly through your site. PayPal and Square have made it easy for anyone to accept credit cards in person or online. There are many other e-commerce solutions, too, that allow you to create an online store managed separately from your website. Some e-commerce platforms will allow you to create basic informational pages and others do not, meaning that if all you want from your author site is to provide some basic information and allow online purchases, one of these platforms may work as a one-stop-shop solution for you. SquareSpace (not to be confused with Square, the payment services provider mentioned above) is an example of a website management platform that integrates e-commerce, making it an all-in-one solution. If you decide to incorporate e-commerce on your site, don’t forget that you’re committing to handling order fulfillment—make sure you charge enough to cover your postage expenses and send out orders in a timely fashion. If that idea doesn’t appeal to you at all, you will need to direct potential customers to an alternate method of purchase or sign up with Amazon.

IN CONCLUSION

If all of the talk above has got you completely baffled, your next step is to talk to a professional, or a friend or family member who is more comfortable with web design.

The most difficult aspects of what we’ve discussed are the site set-up and e-commerce. If you’re completely uninterested in e-commerce and you really don’t want to hire a professional to set up your site, take a look at what platforms like WordPress have to offer. Create a test site and keep it private while you see if you’re up to creating and managing your own site.

One last thing to remember: If you establish a website, be sure you’re ready to respond to inquiries received through your site. If you enable commenting on your blog, interact with those who comment. Answer emails or contact form inquiries in a timely fashion.

NOTE: Legacy Isle Publishing does not create nor maintain websites for clients. Our own main site was built by our sister company, Upspring Media, and our blog was created in-house using the free WordPress platform. We assume no responsibility for the content or services rendered by any third-party vendor mentioned in this post.

COMING SOON: A Man and His Message—New Biography Shares the Inspiration Behind “Today’s Thought”

Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His MessageFor more than 35 years, Rev. Paul S. Osumi inspired generations of readers of The Honolulu Advertiser and other newspapers with his daily column, “Today’s Thought.” Thousands of copies of his simple aphorisms were clipped and saved, tacked to bulletin boards, stuck to refrigerator doors and carried in wallets. Now, in Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message, his son, Norman H. Osumi, tells the story of the man behind these treasured messages, including hundreds of favorite “Thoughts.”

Today’s Thought also features many of the inspirational speeches delivered by Rev. Osumi during his tenure at churches in the Gila Relocation Camp, where he and his family lived during World War II, and on Kaua‘i, the Big Island and O‘ahu. Photographs and letters from the Osumi family’s personal collection add a depth and intimate dimension to this profile of a quiet man who influenced so many. Rev. Osumi’s “Thoughts” resonated with people of all faiths and even those with no religious affiliation, speaking to his universal message of leading a positive, meaningful life.

After the beloved pastor’s death in 1996, Norman Osumi received many inquiries about publishing a new collection of “Today’s Thoughts.” Because three small volumes had already been published by Rev. Osumi himself (one in 1966 and two in the ’90s), Norman felt that any collection “would need something more.” Thus began a decade-long project to research his father’s life, with the goal of including a biography to add context to a new collection of “Thoughts.”

Born in Lihu‘e, Kaua‘i, Norman H. Osumi, a retired banker, grew up on the Waialua and ‘Ewa Plantations. He is the father of two children and resides in Honolulu with his wife, Carolyn. “My father’s words had a great impact on my life,” Osumi says, “and on so many others’ too. People needed guidance in their lives and he tried to provide that. Many of his pieces were about life in general. You may say what he wrote is merely ‘common sense,’ but until people read the messages, they don’t internalize the lessons. Father’s daily sayings gave people in Hawai‘i a set of values for living happy and meaningful lives.”

Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message is priced at $17.95 in softcover and will be available for purchase beginning September 15 at local bookstores, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii gift shop, Logos Bookstore of Hawaii and online direct from Legacy Isle Publishing.

ADVANCE PURCHASE EVENT

Join author Norman Osumi at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii for a special presentation in the

Community Gallery on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 1 to 4pm.

Mr. Osumi will share his thoughts behind writing this book about his late father. Advance copies of Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message will be available for purchase at the event, ahead of general release to the public.

Mr. Osumi will also sign books following the event.For more information, contact JCCH at (808) 945-7633 or email at info@jcch.com

 

Funding Your Book — A Community Fundraiser Project

Last weekend at the Hawaii Book & Music Festival, a friend stopped by our booth and mentioned that she had a pet project that she would love to see turned into a book. When we handed her a brochure on Legacy Isle’s services, she said, “Oh, I wish we had the money to do this.”

The book project she had been speaking of would document a historic district. While describing the book project, she casually mentioned that she thought that then it could be sold in a community center the district wanted to open, to offer information, archives and a gallery of historic images. “We’re trying to fundraise to start [the center],” she said.

“Why don’t you turn the book into a fundraising project for the center, instead?” we suggested. We offered the following ideas to her:

  • Instead of trying to find money to fund the book independently of the community center, combine the two projects and turn the book into a fundraising item.
  • Use a crowd-funding model and ask for donations that will help 1) create a book to share the legacy of the historic district and 2) fund a center to continue archiving the historic materials and provide information for the community. Naturally, every donation over a certain amount ensures the donor receives a copy of the book when it is published.

Crowd-funding, in the sense of using services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, is relatively new in the book publishing market (although patronage certainly is not!). Under this model, you can ask people to donate in order to help fund your project—it’s basically like pre-selling your book. The model that Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the others have popularized, however, also offers “perks” when a donation is made. Instead of simply offering a book for a flat pre-order fee that covers the book (usually at retail price) and shipping, you can allow people to donate less than the retail price—and give them a “perk” as simple as a printed acknowledgement of their donation at the back of the book, or a credit in the same amount toward the purchase of the book after its publication. Donors who give more get a more substantial perk, such as a private pre-opening tour of a new community center.

This can be great since authors are bound to run into people who might want to chip in a few dollars, but not the full amount that the book might cost—and those people can add up! It also gives people a reason to lend more financial support and get something enjoyable in exchange. A well-off friend or relative who might be in a position to give you $500 toward your book project may not really want 50 copies of your book, let’s be honest, and they might not like you quite enough to hand you $500 “just because.” But if they got a unique experience out of it, that’s something worth considering.

And for community groups and non-profits, this can be an even bigger motivator. Organizations can often tap into deeper resources—an artist on the board might offer a custom painting in exchange for a $1,000 contribution, or a chef might contribute a home-cooked meal for a $2,500-level perk.

While individual authors might find success with the crowd-funding model—the Galley Cat website has a weekly feature highlighting a Kickstarter Publishing Project of the Week—this post is meant to focus on the applications of using the model for a book published by a community organization or non-profit. These types of groups may find greater success than an individual because of the implication that excess funding will be directed toward the group’s greater mission. In the above example of the historic district group, if their goal to fund the book and start the renovation on a potential space was $15,000, and their fundraising page showed they had already achieved the goal, a potential donor would still be motivated to give, knowing that their funds would help build out the center and maintain it.

A community group may also, if it is well-organized enough, be able to manage their own crowd-funding campaign on their own—it would require meticulous record-keeping, as well as a clear statement of how funds will be used, what should happen if the fundraising goal is not met, and when donors can expect their promised books and other perks. (The reason Kickstarter and Indiegogo are so popular is because donors feel comfortable that if the project doesn’t accumulate the funding threshold, they’ll have their money refunded.* These services also offer online transactions and a website to direct donors to, which are tools not all authors or community/non-profit groups have at their disposal.)

Or, instead of crowd-funding, community groups can look for one or two individual or corporate donors to act as a traditional sponsor for all of their publishing costs. This type of funding can have the bonus effect of putting more dollars to work—a book can be sold for multiple times its production cost, adding more to the overall fundraising effort. The Hawaii Foodbank, for example, had a generous anonymous donor purchase 1,000 copies of The Hawai‘i Book of Rice from us at Watermark Publishing; the Foodbank was able to turn around and sell those books as part of their big annual Spring Food Drive effort at no cost to the organization, thereby earning even more than the anonymous donor’s original contribution. Traditional-style sponsors (like the patrons of old) don’t get any tangible benefits (no perks) from backing a project, but a sponsorship benefit might be as simple as a logo placement on all copies of the book or a “Presented by” credit as part of the book’s sub-title.

The choice to crowd-fund or seek a smaller number of donors boils down to what sort of group is looking to do the fundraising, and what sort of audience exists to support the group’s interest. If the book would have a broad appeal, crowd-funding becomes an option because of general interest in receiving the book (with the feel-good aspect of supporting a cause). If the book and the organization are of interest to a much smaller group, then single or corporate donors become a more logical choice.

As you can see, the ways for community groups and non-profits to fundraise to produce a book and then turn around to use the book as a fundraising tool itself are numerous.

*Depending on the crowd-funding platform, some campaigns do not return contributions from under-funded projects to the donors; trust-worthy platforms and campaigns will clearly spell this out on their project page and let donors know what happens if a project does not meet its funding goal.

This post does not imply an endorsement of Kickstarter, IndieGogo or any other specific crowd-funding platform. If utilizing one of these services, be sure to read their terms of service thoroughly. We suggest you also consult with a financial expert regarding your responsibilities. When considering a crowd-funding platform, explore your options; some are better suited to non-profits, and others have more restrictive rules regarding perks or what qualifies as a valid project.

Choosing the Right Legacy Isle Publishing Package for You

Legacy Isle offers four basic packages that can be customized to suit your purposes. But where to start?

First, consider what kind of book you’re working on. Next, how many copies do you need? How do you want it to look? Finally, what do you plan to do with it?

This grid will get you headed in the right direction, and also will give you an idea of what sort of book projects we can help you publish.

You’ll notice that only three of our four packages are listed below. Our fourth package is our E-Book Only Package, and any type of book that can be published with the other three package options can be produced as an e-book, though some of the questions below will not apply. Look for more information on our e-book options here.

packages
O = ‘Ohana P = Professional PL = Photo Legacy

O

P

PL

My family/group would like to document a special event or project for our own use

Y

N

Y

My family/business has a very detailed history and we would like to publish a printed chronicle

Y

Y

Y*

This is a personal memoir or biography of an individual who is not widely recognized

Y

Y

N

This is a cookbook or crafts book

Y

Y

Y*

This is an art or photography book

N

N

Y*

This is a children’s picture book

N

N

Y*

This is intended as a teaching text or resource book

Y

Y

Y*

This is a work of fiction (primarily text and not a children’s book)

N

N

N

Our class is working on a project and would like to chronicle it and share it with the community

Y

Y

Y*

I only need a few copies for my family or a small group

Y

N

Y

I would like to add color images or have a hardcover book

Y

Y

Y

My school/club wants to use this as a fundraiser item

Y

N

Y

I am a professional and plan on using this book as a promotional tool

Y

Y

Y*

I’d like to see my book sold in bookstores

N

Y

Y

* You may also wish to consider the Professional Upgrade for the Photo Legacy Package

 Available only with the Professional Upgrade for the Photo Legacy Package