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Written by Dr Elizabeth Roberts

www.fussyaboutfood.com

I have two books to my name thus far. “Sugar Counter for Health” was published in 2016. This book was published by a traditional publisher and came about as the result of a letter I had written to The Times, spotted by the wonderful Ernest Hecht, OBE, founder of Souvenir Press.

Help! My Toddler Is Not Eating by Dr Elizabeth Roberts
Help! My Toddler Is Not Eating by Dr Elizabeth Roberts

My second book “Help! My toddler is not eating: A 30 day plan to get your picky eater to enjoy new food” was self-published.

I was working at the same time as writing “Help! My toddler is not eating”, and so it took me two years to write the book, and then a third year to get it to published. I am now marketing the book and working on getting more reviews. (If you would like to review, e-mail me at elizabeth@fussyaboutfood.com and I’ll send you a copy).

The #1 Writing Tool

Did I enjoy self-publishing, and would I do it again?

No, and no. I am glad I have learnt the process of publishing a book, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. More than anything, it was very time-consuming overseeing editing, typesetting, printing and so on. I didn’t like making all the decisions, such as cover design and the title. 

Being self-published, you don’t have access to resources in the same way as you may when traditionally published. A self-published book is much less likely to become a Times bestseller for example.

Writers Work - Get Paid to Write

Deciding To Write A Book

When I was in my early twenties, I read a book called “The Wealth And Poverty Of Nations” by David Landes. I decided then that I wanted to do something like this in my lifetime: write a book that was incredibly interesting, informative, and well-researched. I wanted another reader, a younger version of myself, to read and enjoy my book, in the same way I had read David Landes’s book and enjoyed and absorbed its content and message.

More recently I read and was similarly inspired by Gary Taubes’s “The Diet Delusion”. This book was the catalyst that changed our thinking on low fat versus low carbohydrate diets in weight and health. His book was a dissection of the research on the topic. Heavy going maybe, even for me, who hoovers up nutritional research. But it is a book like this that I always wanted to write and somehow, I felt I had lost my way.

I had been influenced by the courses telling you to write and self-publish a book, make a course, and enjoy the freedom from employed work. But it is in its essence researching and writing about a topic that I am interested in that I enjoy.

Indie Publishing by Dr Elizabeth Roberts on The Table Read
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

To quote Stephen King: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about.”

I am now working on an idea for exactly this sort of book: broad appeal, well-researched, written from my experience as a dietitian and hopefully, something that will help people understand and think differently about the topic of the book. A lighter read than Gary Taubes, more like Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep”.  

The main reason why I probably won’t self-publish again is simply that my time is limited, and I would rather spend my time on the bits that I enjoy the most and where I feel my unique skills sit: writing and researching (and talking about) the topic of the book. 

What I have Learned

What have I learnt from my experiences with both books and my reflections on these two different experiences? In many ways, the challenges for me and the lessons I have learned are the same and can be condensed into four key points:   

Writing While Also Working.

The key to getting a book finished while also working for me has been discipline, pure and simple. It’s neither sexy nor a “hack”, but it comes down to making efficient use of your time and keeping yourself motivated.

I am a huge fan of the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break, repeated 4 times, and then followed by a longer break (15-30 minutes). The longer break usually coincides with lunch or a snack. The work sections make you feel like you’re achieving something, and the breaks feel like a well-earned reward. I generally have one day per week to write. The biggest challenge has been getting my head back into writing on my writing day, picking up where I last left off.

I split my day into tasks dependent on how much headspace and how fresh a mind they need: first thing is writing, then editing, which usually takes me to lunch. In the afternoon I focus on research and assimilating this and then complete administrivia like e-mails towards the end of the day.

I also picked up a technique called groggy writing from Henneke at Enchanted Marketing (I seem to remember this was also referred to on a course that I attended about managing your critical voice at grubstreet.org). It’s a healthier version of Ernest Hemingway’s “Write drunk, edit sober”.

The idea is you roll out of bed in the morning and, before doing anything else (OK, a bathroom visit and throwing a dressing gown on), you write. I generally write for half an hour. I am finding that this technique also keeps me connected to my writing between writing days and will often inspire me to spend an hour or so on my writing on weekend days. Virginia Woolf said she did all her writing before noon, as that is when her inner critic got up.

Writing Non-Fiction

Indie Publishing by Dr Elizabeth Roberts on The Table Read
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com
  • moving from clinical/ academic writing to writing non-fiction for the public (or you don’t have to reference every single sentence you write).

People want to hear YOUR story, from your perspective, about your experience. Yes, this will be informed by the literature and research you have read and studied, but by dancing around your topic of choice, with all your reading and experience in the background, you will demonstrate your knowledge to your readers.

By all means, back up an argument here and there with a reference, especially if the point you are making is controversial, but I’m just not convinced that many readers will even look at your references when they are immersed in the flow of your writing. Heck, I don’t, and I want to know the ins and outs of the proverbial cat’s private parts when I am reading about a topic of interest, precisely because I may end up including the material or using it as a reference.

But when I am reading about a topic that is not bang on my niche (like Matthew Walker), I am already trusting the writer and their expertise – I’m just enjoying the ride and learning something new about something I don’t know much about. 

References

  • invest in some writing and reference management software.

I learnt this the hard way. I used footnotes for my last book but had written each chapter as a Word document. When it came to amalgamating the chapters, I was faced with an enormous challenge that I am still recovering from.

After doing a fair amount of research, I have decided on Scrivener for writing, and the Zotero plug-in for reference management. I haven’t started using either of these yet and do need to get on before I have written too much of my next book. Perhaps I’ll let you know my experiences of both in a future blog post.  

Biblio - used, rare, out of print books for sale

Marketing

  • invest in marketing.

I fretted about social media and promoting my book, as I neither have the time nor really the understanding of how best to use the various platforms. I have now engaged somebody to help me with this. She plans a schedule every week for daily posts and creates beautiful graphics. She creates some of the posts from the content of my book and I send new material as I am researching around the topic. As I am still working and have income, I have the luxury of being able to engage somebody and so this is a solution that works well for me.  

My Next Steps

In conclusion, as I look towards my next book (which I am super excited about. Teaser = why DO we eat and how do we learn to eat?) I will be exploring the agent/ traditional publisher route. While I am glad I learned the process of putting a book on to the market, I have concluded that my time is better spent on researching, writing, and talking about my new book.

You’ve got to not be afraid of trying something even if it doesn’t work out, learning and changing tack to suit your skills and challenges and to focus on where you add the most value. Otherwise, procrastination and dissatisfaction calls.

More From Dr Elizabeth Roberts:

Dr Elizabeth Roberts is a state registered dietician and author.

Website: https://fussyaboutfood.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/docrobertsdiet

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drelizabethroberts/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/docrobertsdiet/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-elizabeth-roberts-2273684b/

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