Jennifer Layton: Publishing Your Book, Part I

Well readers….as promised….part one of Jennifer Layton’s guest blog on publishing her book….enjoy! Tune in tomorrow for part two and more juicy details….

How to Deliver Your Own Baby

(In other words, how to self-publish your own book)

by Jennifer Layton


Before we get started, let me share a blog entry.  This is what I posted on the evening of October 17, 2008:


I did not expect to have a baby tonight. But at 5:30pm, I stopped by the post office after work, and Trap Door Confessional was in my arms. She is perfect. And this is where the baby analogy ends because I’m about to talk about putting it up for sale on the internet, and that’s kinda creepy.


Trap Door Confessional is my collection of humor essays about being single, turning 40, and just exactly how weird I am.  It really is my baby.  Since I’ve decided I don’t want to have actual children, this is my offering to the world – the spirit that I’m going to leave behind as my legacy. 


And just like having an actual baby, it was a decision I made with my heart instead of my head. I figured it would be expensive.  I didn’t really know how to go about it, and there are no books or classes that can prepare you for every single thing that can go wrong.  But I knew it was right.  And even though it wasn’t going to be Pulitzer material, I was meant to share my story with the world.  (Even if the world was a little put off by my insistence on referring to Pope Benedict as “Pope Benny and the Jets.”  I blame my Catholic upbringing for the strangest stuff in my book.)


Now that my book is published and for sale at Amazon (Order now! Makes a great stocking stuffer!), it’s time to sit back, sort through the aftermath, and figure out just how I managed to do this in the first place. 


The first shocker was realizing that the whole process, from start to finish, took only five months. 


Yes, five months.  That includes the initial two months of trying to come up with a title and find someone to illustrate the cover, before I actually set up an account with CreateSpace and got down to business.  When you’re doing it yourself, you run the timeline.  You can make things happen.  You don’t have to wait for agents and lawyers and publishers to call you back before you can do anything.  You don’t have to take meetings or listen to people tell you what you can and cannot publish.  Of course there are challenges to self-publishing, but you are completely in control. 


And now, for the first time since Trap Door Confessional was born, I will offer up my own parenting tips, using parts of my blog for reference. 



The basic material for my book has been years in the making.  I grew up reading Erma Bombeck, Lewis Grizzard, and Dave Barry, and when I got to college, I got a shot at writing my own weekly humor column for the campus newspaper.  After graduation, I put up my own web site and started writing for humor sites.  I also got paid gigs writing for indie music sites and actual print magazines.  So when I decided to publish, I already had hundreds of pages of material ready.


JUNE 28, 2008

From my blog:


I’m finally putting the book of humor columns together, and I need a title. The theme is an assessment of my life at the halfway point. I thought about “The View from the 40-Yard Line,” but that sounds dumb, and besides, I know nothing about sports, and I want this book to be me. Any ideas?


Let me just say that keeping a blog is one of the best things you can do when you’re working on any kind of creative project.  I keep mine on   I only have a few subscribers, but they all came through for me.  Creative people love brainstorming.  Because I’d been keeping the blog for a long time, my regular readers already knew about me and what kind of book this was going to be. 


One of my readers, Paul, was a former seminary student who had been particularly interested in my Catholic upbringing.  He was the one who suggested the title and even gave me the idea for the cover:  Me, in a confessional, chatting away to a Priest who looks bored and is reaching up to press a trap door button on the wall to get rid of me. 


I loved it.  I never could have come up with it on my own.  And when the book came out, I made sure to thank Paul in the credits.  I learned early to make a list of every person who helped me so I could thank them by name in the book.  Immortalizing someone in print along with you is one of the best ways you can thank someone.




I learned quickly that trying to set up a photo shoot for a concept cover is expensive.  I figured the Priests at my church would be less than thrilled if we tried to set this up in one of their confessionals, so I’d have to pull some props together to make a decent-looking confessional, find some Priest robes and get someone to play the Priest, and be ready for about 5,000 pictures to choose from because I hate how I look in most pictures.  I wanted to hire a professional photographer because it was my book, and I wanted it to look good.  I would also have to try to explain what I was trying to do to everyone involved and hope that the picture wouldn’t look like I was trying to make fun of the Catholic Church.  The point was to make fun of me.


Then one night, I sat up at 2am and thought, why don’t I just get a cartoonist to draw it for me?


I posted on my blog and emailed to all my friends that I was looking for a cartoonist.  A few of my friends sent sample drawings, but they weren’t really what I was looking for.  Then an indie musician friend introduced me by email to a friend of hers who lived in Indiana.  Her name is Kara Barnard.  I emailed her three of the essays I wanted to publish and told her the cover concept.  She spent some time with colored pencils and sent a draft to my post office box.



JULY 26, 2008

From my blog:


The biggest thing happened today. I have the cover illustration for my book. Kara nailed exactly what I was looking for. She put it in the mail and I went and got it at the PO Box this morning. When I opened it, I thought I would faint. It wasn’t just the perfect cover. It was the implication – this book is really going to happen. First I saw the cover, and then I saw the finished book, then I saw the title page, the acknowledgements page, the table of contents, and then my essays. I want to write just a few more essays before I’m officially done, but we’re not far from the finish line now.


What made the experience even more amazing was that Kara offered to give me the drawing for free.  I couldn’t let her do that.  I got her to agree to accept a small payment, and she also gets a percentage of my royalties.  Her credit in the book includes a short bio about her and a link to her web site.  She’s incredibly generous as well as talented, and again, I never would have found her if I hadn’t reached out to my email friends and blog readers….

Read how Jennifer chose a publisher, what it involved, cost, and more on FZ tomorrow!

Curious? Order yourself a copy of Jennifer’s book here!