All about Fi & Books... plus some words from Fi and her self-publishing journey.
Fi & Books is here to help authors who want to self-publish their stories. Run by Fi Woodhead (a self-published author, tea-drinker, graphic designer and generally nice person) we can help you get that story out of your head and into a book.
Inspired by Fi's experience publishing her own children's picture books (Once-Upon-A-Slime) we have put together a batch of services designed for self-publishing authors. From easy editing to gorgeous illustrations and professional printing - pick and choose where you need us. This is YOUR project, YOUR baby, we are here to guide you on your self-publishing journey.
Okay so here is Fi:
Hello there... Is this the part where I confess all my secrets? To the highs and the lows of self-publishing? Nah... but I will try to explain how I managed to self-publish my children's books and why I set up the Fi & Books business!
My books are the 'Once-Upon-A-Slime' children's picture book series. I won't go into detail about why I did them and what inspired me to become an author (maternity leave was helpful), but I will talk through the process and what I learnt... to hopefully give you a heads-up on a couple of things you might not have thought about! Part of the Fi & Books team is my lovely sister Becs (my business partner and freelance copywriter) - she's the queen of words and editing.
My 'real life' job is a designer - I run a design business alongside this one called: Fi & Becs Design and Wording. So, fortunately I had the ability to illustrate my own picture books.
Whilst on maternity leave I wrote my first story about three slimy slugs, created the illustrations on my laptop (I couldn't work with words alone!) and arranged to print a few copies with the printer I use for my design business.
I gave them away to friends and family and arranged an author visit at a local small school, just to see if anyone even liked the story. It turned out that people did! It made kids laugh out loud and for me that was it. I wanted to print more of my books and arrange more school visits to get kids into reading and illustration. So I then had to figure out what to do next...
Even though I can write creatively, I do seem to have a problem where I sometimes write in past tense and then in present, I mix it up. I don't know why I do it, and I do it ALL the time. Even when I go back and check for it, I am blind to it!
Luckily for me, I had a few people who could help me with my manuscript.
I gave my first story to my sister and my step-mum and they both helped me to fix my grammar, added the correct punctuation and sorted out my past / present tense issues. Making sure your manuscript is correct - is SO IMPORTANT and this editing all needs done before your illustrations.
Book illustration is so exciting. It's the moment when your ideas come alive and jump out of the page. I love it! I was lucky because I am a graphic designer and I could make my story come alive on my own laptop, but what can often put off an author from starting their book is the question about illustration. How do you find an illustrator that you can trust... which website do you choose from... how many illustrations will they do... who even owns the work... urgh, it can be a minefield.
That's why we have created our portfolio of illustrators. The prices are clear and from the outset you know WHAT you are going to get and YOU own the work you have paid for. The only extra costs might come from tweaks / changes to the illustrations - that's why it's super important to be clear exactly what you want them to design.
Finding our collection of illustrators was: So. Much. Fun. They are all amazing and talented in their own way - these people make us go 'ooooh' and 'ahhhhh' and they exist to make our eyes dance.
From the excitment of illustration to... the boring bit of publishing. Ha - perhaps it's a bit boring, but it's a crucial part! Without an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chains cannot order, list or track your book for stock control - it's an important thing!
The reason that I set up my own publishing company back in 2010 was because I had managed to write, illustrate and print some tester copies of my book ALL ON MY OWN - why would I need another company to publish it? I dislike being defeated!
So I went online, researched, searched and figured out the paperwork. Because of this I can now publish your book too under our small publishing company. We can generate your ISBN number, take care of the small-print and upload your book onto the Neilson Database to make it all REAL! Plus we won't act like a publisher or take any royalties from your book sales so it all stays totally in your control.
Although I know what I'm doing when it comes to printing (working as a graphic designer!) I actually had a bit to learn about printing a book. I fancied an all-singing, all-dancing cover, with texture and shiny gloss sections, ooo and maybe some scratch-and-sniff pages too!
Hmmm - the answer was no. Unless I wanted to pay a fortune, or I was happy to order one million books (!) and get them printed in China. So, I adjusted my expectations and adopted a more realistic approach whilst also making sure I had a professionally beautiful book.
Having found an amazing printer just down the road from my house (who we also use for our design business Fi & Becs Design & Wording) I trusted that they would print me high quality, perfectly bound books that look gorgeous and feel good to hold. I've used them now for over eight years!
I didn't get the scratch-and-sniff pages, but the smell of my new books when they arrived from my printer was totally to die for. The smell of my REAL book in print for the first time ever! Divine.
Once I had my books ready to go, I quickly realised that people who liked my books were also (surprisingly!) interested in me as an author. If you're planning to actually sell your books then your 'author profile' is MASSIVELY important, you really need to have a credible online presence and for companies, bookshops and schools to take you seriously.
I started with Twitter and Facebook and I also built myself a website to show people my books, tell them a bit about me, include my up-coming event info and so that people could buy my book online. Getting a professional headshot (aka a photo) is also really important as bookshops, newspapers and events will ask for one if they are promoting you!
It's worth thinking about these things BEFORE you actually print your book so you can include your website address and social media icons on the back of the book. The best thing in the WORLD is when people love your book and decide to like you on Facebook and engage with you online!
Having your book stocked in a REAL bookshop is the ultimate dream. Imagine walking into an independent bookshop and seeing your book there on a shelf beside other authors! It is amazing.
When you start contacting bookshops as a self-published author it can feel scary and nerve wracking - especially if you're not used to 'selling' things. The truth is, some independent bookshops are really supportive - they buy your books, they like to host events with you and they even create point-of-sale (aka shelf marketing) for you. Some bookshops can be a little more tricky. If you have a visit where you aren't made to feel welcome (it can happen!) then my honest advice is to walk away and not worry about it. Book in an author visit instead and put that smile back on your face!
You need to make sure that you are friendly, professional and you make it extremely easy to for them to stock your book in their shop. Always get your trade price, RRP price and invoices set up professionally before you go! Having a well laid out invoivce makes you much more credible.
Some bookshops ask for 'sale or return', which means you only invoice them once they have sold your books. This is fine... but I've lost count of how many times I have forgotten to invoice for these books as can take MONTHS, so beware!
Extra tips... let each bookshop know how much you hate Amazon and
support your local bookshops with events and World Book Day plans.
Big shout out to Booksends in Kewsick who have always been amazing to me!