A Personal Publishing Story by Johanna Baker-Dowdell

I’m pleased to bring you a guest post by Johanna Baker-Dowdell of Strawberry Communications. Johanna and I connected online while she was in the process of funding her book for self-publishing. I followed her campaign with interest and stayed in touch. This is Johanna’s personal publishing story.


Johanna-Baker-DowdellWorking as a freelance journalist and blogger I never thought I would write a book, because I’m great at articles and posts 400 words or less. But here we are and I am talking to you about writing a book!

When I left full-time work to become a mum more than seven years ago I thought it would be nice to freelance while my son slept. Luckily for me I had some friends in the industry and they passed work my way. As I became more confident in my role as a mum and a freelancer I started writing more about my own experiences as a working mum, weaving my stories into conversational articles about time management, social media marketing and me time. These were well received and several people suggested I take the content and turn it into a book.

Initially I dismissed the idea, but the seed had been planted and I started thinking about what it would be like to write a book about starting and running a business while also bringing up children. I thought about who I’d like to interview and the names Janine Allis from Boost Juice, Carolyn Creswell from Carman’s Fine Foods and Naomi Simson from RedBalloon popped into my head. These women all inspired me by what they had achieved as business mums. So the die was cast and I became committed to the project.

It took just over four years to bring Business & Baby on Board to fruition because I wrote it around a head injury, moving interstate, running a business and my family. Once I had interviewed most of the 21 inspirational women from the book I put together a book proposal, to make myself treat it like a project and also on the off chance I might approach a publisher. I did end up approaching two mainstream publishers and both loved my writing and the women I featured. They had my sample chapters assessed by editors and were keen to go ahead, but the process fell down in both cases when it came to how to market the book. It wasn’t a parenting book, and it wasn’t a business book. Where did it fit? Was there a market for it?

Business&BabyOnBoardBookCoverI knew there was a market for it because the market had asked me to write the book in the first place, but that wasn’t enough for the publishers. They turned it down. I was disappointed, but then I saw the opportunity these rejections presented. I could self-publish the book, finish writing it the way I wanted, keep the title I wanted (“Business & Baby on Board” was not inspirational enough) and learn how to publish a book. If it was going to happen, it was going to be me who made it happen. And self-publishing isn’t about people paying to have their name in print anymore, or putting together something they are going to flog at a sales conference. The stigma around self-publishing has been removed, a bit like online dating, and it’s now seen as a legitimate method to share your words.

I spent months researching self-publishing options while writing my manuscript. I looked the pros and cons of print on demand versus printing in bulk, printing overseas versus printing in Australia, physically printing versus publishing electronically and project managing the process myself versus handing it over to someone else to manage.

As part of this process I also researched how I was going to pay to self publish my book. After initially selling some copies as pre-orders, I decided crowdfunding would be a quicker way to make things happen. I used Australian platform Pozible and blogged about my experience

My first draft was 60,000 words, which initially I thought was a good length. However I then thought about my target market and realised the women I was writing for were unlikely to have time to read a long book. They wanted answers quickly and so I cut 25,000 words to create the content that has now been published. Each chapter tells the story of one business mum’s road to entrepreneurship as well as tapping into their particular area of expertise. The book covers the good and bad of starting and running a business, with added information about doing it around children.

Once I had my 35,000 word manuscript I handed it over to a professional editor and sent each chapter to the relevant interviewee for fact checking. Their minor changes were incorporated into the next draft and then reviewed by my editor and myself again. The editor also produced a style guide so my book designer and printer could see how words and phrases should be shown.

Business&BabyOnBoardDeliveryNext on the list was the cover design, which had been in the works for a few months by the time I finished my book. Two cover designs were produced and I crowdsourced my networks to see which one was most popular. Once I had the edited manuscript and the final cover, the internal designer set to work to create a book to match the cover. The final step was handing everything over to the printer, who then produced a proof copy of the book. The book was just what I wanted so I pressed print on the first print run of 500 copies of Business & Baby on Board at the end of June 2013.

It took me a long time to decide which way to go, but after speaking with some friends who had been through the process themselves I decided I could manage the publishing process myself – and I’m glad I did. I now know the process from beginning to end, from the book conception through to opening the box of printed books.

It’s often said that crowdfunding is a great marketing opportunity and helps to bring your project to the attention of people. That was certainly what happened in my case! Due to running my crowdfunding campaign my work was brought to the attention of digital-first publisher Editia. Publisher Charlotte Harper asked to see some chapters and loved them! Editia offered me a contract to produce the ebook version of Business and Baby on Board. That has meant I got to experience life as a self-publisher to produce my printed book and life as an author for a publisher! The best of both worlds!


About Johanna

A journalist and public relations consultant BC (before children), Johanna Baker-Dowdell used the skills she had developed in corporate positions to launch her own business, Strawberry Communications.

As a business owner Johanna now combines storytelling in newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs and social media with being an author, a parent, a wife and baking sweet treats.

www.strawberrycommunications.com.au Email: johanna@strawberrycommunications.com.au Twitter – @JohannaBD and @bizbabyonboard. You can buy the print or ebook editions of Business and Baby on Board at this link.

You may also be interested in reading:

You can read about Johanna’s crowdfunding project in this interview on The Shake.

Find out how Johanna managed to turn the failure of her initial crowdfunding campaign into a success in this post on the Crowdfund it! blog.

If you are interested in finding out about Crowdfunding, you can purchase an ebook or printed book from the publisher Editia Books.

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