Just because you are vegan doesn’t mean your book will be!
Some of this will be a repeat of what I’ve said in previous blogs, but if you’re new here and are vegan and wondering how to publish a vegan book, welcome!
1. Decide if you’ll pitch to a vegan book publisher, or self-publish.
While it seems like everyone and their dog is going the self-publish route nowadays, there are still advantages to going with a traditional publishing house:
- You get paid! That’s right, they pay YOU to write your book.
- They provide you with editorial expertise.
- They print the book for you.
- They’ll support the marketing of your book (but you will still have to show up to share with your network, do interviews, etc.)
While there aren’t very many vegan book publishers out there, I listed some of them in this blog. Now, don’t go writing an entire book and then email them and ask “Will you publish this?” It doesn’t work that way. They want to have a say in moulding your book just like any product (yes, books are products), so what you have to do is pitch your book idea FIRST (you may have to provide a sample chapter) and then they will decide whether they want to work with you.
If you choose the self-publishing route and want to release the book exactly the way you want it (with some exceptions), you’re on your own with editing, formatting, cover, and marketing…BUT there are several people you can hire to help you with the process and make it way better than it might be if you did everything yourself. We’ll go through this in the next set of steps.
I recently found out there is such a thing as hybrid publishing houses. I’m not sure if any of them focus on vegan books, but the difference is that THE AUTHOR PAYS THE PUBLISHER to support them with coaching, editing, and printing; it’s a hybrid model in the sense that you are self-publishing, but you get the same support that you would from a publishing house so that the end product is a lot better than it would be if you did everything yourself.
2. If you self-publish, hire a vegan book coach.
Wait…I thought I had control of everything if I self-publish?
Just because you CAN do it all yourself (and trust me—I did), doesn’t mean you should. There are some major pros to hiring a vegan dream team, one of which is simply having some other people who know about the creation and existence of your vegan book!
A vegan book coach will help you from A-Z and make sure you’ve thought through all the possibilities in terms of your story, what service to use to print your book, and how to get it out there. A few vegan book coaches I know include Kathleen Gage, Elizabeth Gary (both US-based), and Mitali Deypurkaystha (UK-based), who specializes in authors who run a business.
Do you rub elbows with vegan celebrities? Knowing someone who would be willing to endorse your book by writing the foreword (similar to an introduction, but by someone other than the author) and having their name listed on the cover might help it sell some more copies than it otherwise would. This definitely isn’t a must-have, but it could help increase your book’s success! Check out my list of plant-based celebs here.
If you’re ready to be an author but don’t have the time or patience to sit down and write your book, you’ll need to work with a vegan ghostwriter (I can help with this!). I know that high profile authors who work with publishers are encouraged to hire a co-author (and you usually have 6-8 months to complete a book). You could hire a ghostwriter without them knowing…just make sure you work fast enough to meet any set deadlines, because it would take at last 6 months to have a ghostwriter complete the first draft of a manuscript.
3. If you self-publish, hire vegan editors.
The next person or team you’ll want to consider are vegan book editors, especially if you want a professional to proofread and edit out your mistakes or point out areas that could be written better. I published a list of vegan book editors here, which includes me.
Note that there are copyeditors (which I just described) and structural/developmental/substantive editors, who examine and recommend the best structure for the book. They might suggest moving around chapters, sections, and paragraphs, and these folks can be helpful for fiction writers. Read this blog on the difference between copyeditors and structural editors. Melody Owen is one vegan structural editor I know.
4. If you self-publish, hire vegan book formatters.
You can format your own print book in Microsoft Word, but again, if this isn’t your strength or you want to hand that off to a professional, you’ll want to look for a vegan book formatter. Formatting a book for ebooks, which requires converting your manuscript into .ePUB format, is even more tricky than the print version.
As formatting isn’t a common service, I haven’t found a list of vegan book formatters, so I’m the only one I know! You can read this blog to find out more about what book formatters do.
Fun fact: I’m the only vegan book formatter, editor, and ghostwriter I’ve found who identifies as a woman of colour!
5. If you self-publish, hire a vegan cover designer.
A book cover is one of the most important elements of a book as it’s like product packaging: The one that stands out on the shelf gets bought! There are a lot of vegan graphic designers out there who can help you with this (you just need to give them the measurements of the book). Kayleigh Nicolaou of Kakadu Creative is someone I know who can help you with this—see some of her company’s book covers below!
6. Hire a vegan voiceover artist.
Selling an audiobook version of your book is a good idea as more people are listening to books, and it’s a great option for people who are blind. You can definitely record yourself reading your own book, but if you’d rather hire a professional voice artist who’s also vegan, Marian Erikson does this—she also runs her own podcast so you can listen to her reading other peoples’ material (she’s read mine!). I doubt all publishers pay for voiceover artists, so if you work with a publisher and they don’t—or the person they want to hire isn’t vegan—I think this is one aspect where you can negotiate to hire the voice artist you want.
7. Make sure your book’s printed with vegan ink.
We can’t ensure that no animals were harmed in the chopping down of trees to make the paper our books are printed on, but we CAN do our best to ensure the books are printed with animal-free ink. If you work with a publisher, you might have to fight them on this, but if you’re self-publishing, this might be more easy. I sent a query over to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon KDP) to see if they’d answer my question, and I got this within a few hours:
I’m not familiar with other self-publishing services aside from KDP, so if you are, let me know if these other printers also use vegan inks. Amazon definitely isn’t the most ethical company, but the one advantage it has over a traditional publisher is that it prints on demand and you’re not tied to selling books in large batches.
(Tip for self-publishing authors: It’s typical to sell a max of 200 books. Two years after I published my book, I can tell you I’ve sold exactly 29 hard copies and 35 ebooks, and given a way a bunch more. I’ve passed the $100 threshold for my Amazon royalties, so I’m happy!)
8. Hire a vegan publicist or PR firm.
Finally, if you don’t want to handle all the marketing for your book (and trust me, it’s hard to do on your own), consider hiring a vegan publicist or public relations firm, and don’t wait until your book’s already out there to do this. Hire them three months in advance of your anticipated book launch date so they can read the book and start contacting media outlets and podcasts that will interview you BEFORE your book comes out, as well as afterward. Some publishers will do very basic media outreach and send out a news release to major media outlets, but they don’t do full-on campaign strategy like contacting all the niche outlets and podcasts that might want to review your book or interview you.
There are LOTS of vegan-related media outlets and podcasts now, and it’s hard to keep track of them all. Kathleen Gage can help you with this, and even if you want to do it on your own, she’s got a list of vegan & plant-based podcasts that can help you get exposure for your book.
Note on getting on “bestseller” lists: A couple of years ago, I learned from a publisher that there is a formula for getting on “best-selling” lists.
- For Amazon, this relies a lot on presales, which is where the pre-launch buzz is important. The more presales you get before your book launches, the higher your book will rank in your genre. (Kathleen Gage has a free Amazon report on getting to #1)
- To get on a list like The New York Times’, you either have to be a celebrity (who guarantees lots of books sold) or there are US firms you can hire that pay people to physically walk into bookstores when your book launches and buy your book. This costs $25-50K USD (as of 2017) and in my opinion, straddles an ethical line.
- If you self-publish, your book will probably not be available at all bookstore locations in the country you live in. (You have to ask each bookstore manager to hold copies, and they usually only say yes if you plan to have an in-store book launch so people buy the book and have you sign it.)
- If your book IS going to be widely available AND you have the money to pay for people to buy it so that you get on a bestseller list, then all the power to your vegan book!
Have I missed any steps to publishing a vegan book? Comment below.