My Experience Publishing with CreateSpace

I did it. I published my book, The Project-Driven Life: How To Figure Out What You Want To Be When You Grow Up. It’s available now on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle edition now.

I am so happy.

High Resolution Front Cover.5747969

If you’ve ever thought about self-publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace, here’s what I did, and why, and what my experience was like.

But first, a little backstory.

I really resisted publishing this. Getting my work out there was a big, fat, scary, hairy deal for me. I didn’t want to risk criticism, or people hating it, or even worse, ignoring it.

So when I was finally ready to pull the trigger, I had to make some decisions.

I knew I was going to go with CreateSpace because I had worked with them before, back when they were called Booksurge.

I had a good experience with them back in 2008 when I helped a friend, who had no computer skills, publish his book with them, and it was easy.

Sadly, he died before he saw his book in print, but his widow told me to spare no expense and just get it out there so all his friends could buy it on Amazon.

So she paid for copy editing and marketing, and a whole bunch of other stuff I don’t even remember now.

But you don’t have to pay at all with CreateSpace.  You can totally publish your book for free.

You can do your own formatting, your own copy editing. You can upload your own cover art and write your own marketing copy.

But I hate all that. I hate Word and if I had to eff around with it to get my formatting all neat and clean, my stupid little book would be still sitting in Scrivener.

I’m not a bad writer, but even I knew my copy wasn’t squeeky clean.

And as for cover art? Jesus. No way.

Marketing copy and SEO and all that stuff?  I wish I was good at it, but I’m not.

I went in and calculated how much I would have to pay CreateSpace to do all that stuff and make my scary hairy project something that didn’t look like a dog’s dinner, which it most certainly would have if I was in charge of all that stuff.

If I was ready to do this, and if this might be the very last thing I would have the nads to put out there, what was it worth to me to have it done all spiffy and pro?

You can go in and calculate all their pro services on the site. One round of copy editing, Pro formatting, 2 Pro covers to pick from, marketing and Kindle conversion totalled a grand.

I sat on it.

I could do my own copy editing. I could dink around in Word and format. I could take a photo for the cover and overlay the right font onto it and pick fonts for front and back and inside, and write the back cover and the Amazon description and tag it all up on my own.

I could. I really could. I could spend another 6 months to a year learning new skills, but the question was: Would I?

And the answer was a resounding, no.

I would not. I had not the time, nor, more importantly, the interest, in doing any of those things. It took all I could do to finish the damn thing and I really didn’t want to deal with it any more.

So I paid. And I am so happy I did.

 

The whole process was a dream. I got an editorial letter telling me where my tone went off the rails, and I got to fix it. I had so many copy editing mistakes it was embarrassing , frankly.

I got to fix them all.

The pro formatting turned out so nice.

I was initially going to go with just one cover concept but was urged to go for the Premium package where they design 2 and you get to pick the one you like best, and I was SO HAPPY I did that because one of the covers was not what I was going for at all.

But I think the very best money I spent was on the Marketing. Marketing is such a skilled art, and their writers totally nailed it.

Yeah, I paid, but I got way more than I ever hoped for. And it was a pleasure to deal with them.

So if you have some money to throw at your book project, I would say: go for it. Definitely get the copy editing and definitely get the Marketing. Best money I ever spent.

 

 

I Think I’m Done

On July 1st I started writing my book here in short blog posts.

This was “Step 1” in the strategy to overcome my resistance to putting my work out there. The plan was to  use my blogging streak to chunk out the book. And you know what?  I think I’m done. Today when I sat down to write this post, there was no more content left to write.

I still have the Acknowledgements, and a Resources page and some structural tweaks, but the content is done. Two weeks ahead of schedule.

Tomorrow’s blog entry will be the 150th day in a row of this blogging streak which started on February 18th, Ash Wednesday.

As the string of days-without-a-miss has gotten longer, I’ve been getting excited about it. I’ve even wondered if I could last a full 365.

But tomorrow I’m going to bring this streak to an end.

Done.

So what happens to this blog now?

I don’t really know.

I’m thinking maybe a twice weekly posting schedule? Maybe just Mondays and Fridays? I could talk about Stage 2 of this process of self-publishing a book as I go through it.

Because this project won’t be “DONE,” done, until there is a bound copy of this thing for sale on Amazon.

(Remember Project Rule Number 2, right? The Goal: What will count as done?)

I could possibly go back to the, “What I Had For Lunch” kind of post where I talk mostly about my personal life and my lens on it.

I don’t know…

I’ve  gotten a few more readers since I started streaking every day here. It’s really cool, and so gratifying. Maybe you guys could tell me what you’d like to read here?

Personal life stories of a small town yoga teacher? Or how-to kinds of stuff about the few things I know how to do?

I’d really like to know.

Anyway, thanks so much for giving me a little audience to write to. This streak has been a fun ride for me.

Namaste.

Do Something A Little Bit Hard Everyday

It took me a really long time to be happy, to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my time, my life.

I made a lot of mistakes. I could have gotten to this place  decades sooner if I had done the stuff I’m suggesting here when I was in my 20s, rather than my 50s.

Whenever I run into people in their 20s who remind me of me at that age, I want to say, “Psst! Come here! You want to figure yourself out quicker and easier? You want to stop feeling lost and confused? Okay, then, do this. Start by making lists.”

That’s why I wrote this. And that’s why I am going to have it printed up. I want to have something tangible to press into people’s hands. People struggling like I struggled. I want to help them be clearer, happier and more pro-active in their lives.

I want to say, “Here.This is the system that worked for me. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.”

But the thing is, nobody acts until they’re at knife-point. At least I didn’t. I had to get profoundly unhappy and angry before I took any action on my own behalf. I plotted and schemed for years before I got free of my of my toxic family.  But I did it, because it was intolerable.

But I had to get really unhappy before I took action to change the situation. When I got fed up and pushed to my edge, only then did I make the bold, scary, risky moves that had the most dramatic impact in my life. The moves that ultimately freed me and made me happy.

If you’re comfy, you won’t move.

So what do you do to motivate positive action, short of getting to the angry “F-this” stage?

I suggest doing something a little bit hard every day to build strength for the hard, disciplined steps it’s going to take to move your life out of the “comfy zone” into “living life to the max” zone.

A really productive, amplified life takes a ton of energy, focus, and persistence. So go into training. Do something a little bit hard every day.

Like what?

Go for a run when you don’t feel like it.

Don’t have that second beer.

Clean out your basement.

Apologize to someone you owe an apology to.

Build your discipline, focus, and persistence using light weights first. Then, when it’s time to walk out the door, get on the plane, move to a different state, quit the deadly job, file for the divorce, you’ll be ready. You’ll already know what it feels like to be uncomfortable for a while, and you’ll know it won’t last forever.

Then you’ll be free.

How To Talk To Strangers At Parties

“What do you do?”

Oh god how I hate that question.

Before I was a yoga teacher I was a housewife.

Before I was a housewife I worked in college admissions.

Before college admissions I was a grad student.

Before college and grad school I worked at Sears.

None of those titles described me in any way whatsoever.

They didn’t describe who I was, what I liked, what I thought about, what made me happy, what made me feel creative—nothing.

They were bullshit titles that made it easy for other people to peg me in the social hierarchy. That question was nothing but an attempt at one-upmanship.

Or so I thought.

(Spoiler: I was wrong.)

My answer to the what do you do question told the other person nothing about me except what I did (or didn’t do) for money. And in our society, what you do for money is your social identity.

At least sometimes.

Or mostly.

Or maybe never.

In our new wrecked economy, hardly anybody is what they do for money anymore, so if you answer the what do you do question with your job title, you tell the asker nothing.

“I work in IT.”  (Blank look.)

“I work in sales.” (Blank look.)

“I’m a nurse.” (Vision of needles.)

“I’m a teacher.” (Vision of blackboard.)

It’s a profoundly dumb question.

A better question would be: “What kind of projects do you work on?” Or, “Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?

That’s a much better question.

It gives the other person a choice about whether to tell you about a project at work, or about the wooden kayak they’re building in their basement.

It steers the conversation into non-judgmental waters. It says, “I assume you are a person with passionate interests. Tell me something about what you’re doing.”

I remember getting so inwardly defensive and squirmy  when I had to tell people I was a stay-at-home mom I wouldn’t even go to parties. Especially if I knew there would be professors or lawyers or doctors there.  I imagined them meeting me and thinking: Oh great, a woman with strong opinions about vacuums and Little League.

But I realize now that all people are ever really trying to do is find common ground with other people, not judge them.

All they want to know is, Do you feel as socially awkward as I do in this moment? And if so, could you possibly rescue me, give me some little crumb, something, anything, to talk to you about so I can escape this social awkwardness?

The more accurate translation of the What do you do question is: Can you give me a little window into your life so I can see if we have anything in common? Not, Are you worthy of my time and attention?

So if you reframe the whole crappy, What do you do question like that, the whole game changes.

Try saying: “I run marathons.” Or, “I stand on my head.” Or, “I build 5 mile long spreadsheets.” Or, “I scan scalps for headlice.”

Be witty and charming and self-effacing. You can then end-run the whole social hierarchy game, play on your terms, and have some fun.

You can be a human being. A human being with an interesting life, a project, and a martini.

Where I Went Wrong

I always thought I would be discovered. I thought some teacher or adult would tell me what I should be when I grew up.

I thought somebody would see my hidden talents and out me. Tell me,“You’re special.” Or at least: “You’re so good at that.”

At the time I didn’t care what they said, I just wanted them to tell me, for godsakes.

I was a kid. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was an adult. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Then I was 50. I felt confused. What should I be, what should I do with my life??

Sound familiar?

I waited for some epiphany (that never came.) I waited for a significant conversation (that never came.) I waited for a compliment from somebody in power, some expert.

Nothing.

I had it all wrong. Totally and completely ass backwards. Nobody was going to pick me. I had to pick myself. (Go read James Altucher’s Choose Yourself, it’s brilliant.)

And you do, too.

Your vocation, or your career, or your path, or whatever you want to call it, is a total a Do-It-Yourself job.

You’re not Lana Turner. Nobody is going to discover you sitting in a drugstore.

You have to make your life from scratch, yourself. Your life is a process. You will figure yourself out gradually, one project at a time.

So create an exciting project for yourself. Doesn’t matter what it is as long as you feel amped about it. Then totally invest.

Don’t pray. Don’t meditate. Wait, no. Definitely meditate. Meditate every single day, but not with the hope that your vocation will be revealed to you during your meditation.  That’s not going to happen.

Your life mission will be revealed to you when you’re waist deep in some challenging and exhilarating project.

And, while we’re at it, there is no such thing as a life mission. But there are life missions. Plural. People now have 14 jobs over their lifetime. Not one. So you can lose that idea of working at the same place your whole life

Not happening. Old paradigm.

Careers are fluid now. We morph and grow into different kinds of jobs, different kinds of work. Everything is changing constantly.

I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. It would have saved me a lot of passive hang-wringing and worrying.

I wish someone had kicked me in the butt and said, Stop worrying about your vocation; stop asking that idiotic question: What do I want to be when I grow up. Just go out and DO SOMETHING.

Get a project, and grow up.

Don’t Retire

Don’t go to bed. Don’t go to sleep. Stay awake, alert and sharp.

Retirement is fine if you’re bored and hate your job and have had it. But if your job is still stimulating and challenging, stay.

So many people I know who are retired are completely wasting their gifts. They’re healthy and vibrant but they’re are becoming old and uninteresting in retirement.

Don’t be like Ben.

Ben is 70 and bored. He makes homemade beer in his basement and gives it away to his friends.  When you ask him what’s new, he says he’s getting fat.

Don’t be like Carole.

Carole is a healthy, vibrant 72. She was a teacher for 45 years. She’s retired and doesn’t know what to do with her days. She used to volunteer,, but got tired of that. I overheard someone ask her the other day what she’s been up to lately and she said, “I walk my dog.”

This is more like it. Be like Jane.

Jane’s retired, also from teaching. She takes care of her ailing mother. But she’s recently taken on a big job as district liaison for a counseling organization she’s been involved with her whole life. She picked up the viola a few years ago, too, after not playing since college. She’s gotten so good that the local orchestra has asked her to play with them. The new music she has to learn is hard, she says, but she’s loving the challenge.

The problem with retirement is that people leave their jobs before they have a juicy, long-term project lined up in front of them. You ask them what they’re going to do with themselves and their answers are vague and sketchy.

Some are going to pursue their hobbies full time. Hobbies are fine, and you should have them, but they won’t give you the deep satisfaction of a difficult and worthwhile project.

  Here’s what I’ve picked up about retirement:

Only people with obsessive, engaging projects thrive in retirement.

The rest become dull and tiresome. They repeat themselves. They talk about the good old days over and over. They give unsolicited advice. They know everything. They’ve been there, done that.  They’re not interested in anybody else. They’re not interested in technology. They’re proud of their flip phones. They’re cranky and opinionated. They’re not curious. They’re obsessive about their food.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  It’s not inevitable.

You can stay interested.

You can learn new things.

You can stay curious about everything.

You can practice what in Zen is called “not knowing” and ask younger people for advice. You can decide whether or not to take it, but you can ask humbly, and without arrogance.

You can master the iPhone.

You can grow and do meaningful and worthwhile stuff until you die.

Let me ask you: When you reflect back, don’t you agree that the very best moments in your life came when you were stretched to your limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile?

Remember when you climbed that high peak in Yosemite?

Remember when you trained for and finished that Triathlon?

Remember what it took to build your business from nothing?

It was hard as hell. You frequently wanted to quit, but you didn’t. You stretched, you stuck it out, and you did it.

The view from the mountaintop was mind-blowing.

The endorphin high and the camaraderie in the Triathlon was something you’ll never forget.

You served countless customers and added value to their lives doing what you loved.

You can still play. You can design a project for yourself that will stretch you to your limits. You can do worthwhile things that utilize your talents and abilities.

And you must.

As long as you have life and breath and your wits and some energy, you must.

You must find an outlet for your talents and use them. Don’t lay around all day, reading the newspaper and puttering in the yard. Find a project that both lights you up, and stretches you to the limits of your abilities. Ideally, pick something that helps somebody else.

Think about your legacy. What do you want to leave behind? Get cracking on that.

You’re the only one who can assign value to what you do. If it’s worthwhile to you, and aligned with your beliefs and values, that’s your thing.

Go for it.

Go through all the Project Picking steps. Make sure your project is exciting, that it has an end date, and that you know what will count as finished.

Make sure it’s challenging, that it pushes your edges a little, or a lot.

Train for a  something physical.

Learn or re-learn an instrument.

Help raise your grandchildren.

Coach.

Write your memoir

Build something

Fix something

Mentor someone through a project

Do something difficult and worthwhile and you will make  everyone around you happy.

Then you’ll be happy, too.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Use yourself up.

Don’t Say You Don’t Have Time

What if you’re a recent grad with a crummy job (or 2) crushed under a massive boulder of student loan debt.

What if you’re a single parent on the gerbil wheel of job, kids, daycare, shopping, laundry, Dr. visits, round and round.

What if every waking hour is consumed with survival concerns. Fuck the ukulele. No room for that. You gotta sleep.

How are you going to fit a self-designed project into this kind of scenario?

Do an honest time audit.

Everyone I’ve ever met, including myself, who has ever said, “I have no time,” is lying.

If you watch tv, you have time. If you play on social media, you have time. If you play video games, you have time.

But wait, you say, I need that kind of mindless downtime. I’m exhausted at the end of my survival-driven life. The only thing I’m capable of is my admittedly mind-numbing addiction to Facebook. Or Netflix. Or whatever.

Okay. But what about the one-inch dash? You know, that line on your headstone between the day you enter this life and the day you expire?

What if you get to the end of that dash and you never did anything? Or anything that really mattered, or expressed who you really were?

You have an obligation, by the sheer odds of being born, to express yourself authentically.

You have an obligation to uncover some little talent or uniqueness and express the hell out of it. You have an obligation to participate and contribute to the hive. Bring something to the table, dude. Anything. Preferably your thing.

If the only thing you do in the one-inch dash of  your life is survive it, you only get one single point. It’s like the 200 points you get for just taking the SAT.

That’s not enough.

If you’re always working, look for ways of expressing yourself at work. Can you find a project there that you care about? Make it happen.

If you need your computer down-time after work, use it to research the project that if you did have the time, you would do. Dream of being a successful blogger? Read successful blogs and figure out the secrets.

Use little pieces of time you find lying around to daydream and take baby steps.  Find what you can do in a half-hour and do it. Let go of one minor mindless addiction and practice your Spanish.

Listen to podcasts during meal-prep and clean-up.

Use drive time to listen to audio books.

Find some minutes every day to express yourself authentically. It’s a kick. It’s life affirming and enlivening. It will make you happy. It will make other people happy. Do it. Live your dash before it ends.