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Mother's Milk Books Blog

Behind the scenes at Mother's Milk

Cue long pause and me thinking… (the random thoughts of a publisher)

When a friend recently asked me what was involved in publishing, it took me a fair while to reply.

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On bulbs and potential...

When we went to the LLLGB Conference last October we received a lovely goody bag, and one of the gifts inside was a bulb. When we returned home my daughter and I planted it. The other day (before we got all this snow) we checked on the flowerpot where we had planted it and we could see a small spike of the palest green peeking out of the soil. It had already shooted!We are now looking forward to watching it grow and bloom, and wondering what colour the flower will be…Bulbs are pretty amazing since they can survive, grow and flower with very little from the surrounding environment. To begin with, they only really need water, and once they start shooting they will utilize carbon dioxide and sunlight in the process of photosynthesis to produce more food for themselves (glucose) and of course oxygen, without which they (or we) couldn’t live.*Bulbs have a great energy store within them, and viewed from a poet-philosopher’s eye, great potential… rather like humans. Within each of us we carry the great potential to create; whether it be the creation of a family, an enriching relationship, a piece of art or writing, a felt toy or a tasty home-cooked meal… even a clean bathroom or a tidy shelf! We need very little to create something beautiful: a little time, a few materials (or some basic skills) along with some encouraging words.When I had the germ of an idea for Mother’s Milk Books way back in spring 2011 I had no idea of how it would develop, and I’ve been so proud to watch it grow in its own unique way — slowly, but with great determination! I have loved seeing its first flower Musings on Mothering blossom, and I’m looking forward to seeing how other possible projects develop…Although I am brimming over with ideas of what to work on next, I am conscious of the fact that there are constraints to me being able to fulfill these ideas: namely time and money (alas, this is one of the few necessities for book production!). But I am rich in encouraging words.So I plan to take things slowly… do what I can in the moments between looking after my little ones and spending precious time with family and loved ones.I will have faith that like the flower bulb my daughter and I planted last year, growth – and the continuance of life and creativity — is inevitable. A flower will blossom: I don’t know when, or what form or colour the flower will be. But it will happen.Thank you and best wishes to all those who have supported me so far. A very Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.*Apologies to any plant biologists out there in case my explanation of photosynthesis lacks any crucial details. I am after all, a mere chemist… ;-)

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Remember the chocolate with the breastfeeding image?

It’s been a long time since I was given the bar of chocolate with the beautiful painting by Stanislaw Wyspianski on the packet. His painting depicts a mother breastfeeding her child; a completely normal scene. Yet a beautiful scene.I was very pleased to receive the chocolate – ah the perks of publishing! – but I promised myself I wouldn’t eat it until Musings on Mothering was published. I hesitated for a long while, but finally found a good time to use (and indulge myself – and others – with) this lovely chocolate.My daughter’s school was fundraising for Children in Need last Friday – and they asked for parents to bake cakes. Aha, I thought! So I decided to turn the chocolate into a creamy ganache and use it atop the fairy cakes I made. Here is the result: and by pure chance I photographed the cake on our cake/biscuit tin, which funnily enough portrays another beautiful image: Summer Evening on the Skagen Southern Beach with Anna Ancher and Marie Kroyer, 1893, by Peder Kroyer.Oh, and the cakes were tasty!

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What's it like to publish a book?

In the past year I’ve often been asked, “what’s it like to publish a book?”. At the moment my response is to mildly grimace… You see publishing a book is difficult; it is time consuming and can be expensive. And so much of one’s heart goes into it.After going through many, many months of ‘bearing’ the book i.e. deciding on the final content, editing, copy-editing, typesetting, cover design, proofreading, organizing ISBNs and liaising with printers you finally give birth to your ‘baby’.Now come the questions. Who’s really going to be interested in your book? What will they think of it? And crucially, who will actually buy it?It may be rather unpleasant to have to ask yourself these questions, but they do need to be considered carefully before deciding on how you wish to publish your book.The good news is that there are so many resources out there for people who want to self-publish a book, and resources too, for someone interested in establishing an independent press.Two excellent books that will give you plenty of useful information are here:How To Publish Your Own Book by Anna Crosbie (published by howtobooks)Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (published by A&C Black)I would suggest that it’s a good idea to be ruthlessly realistic. How many books do you think you will sell? If it’s not many (say, on the scale of tens, or perhaps hundreds) and you like the look of books that have been digitally printed, then POD (print on demand) may be your best option, since the books are only printed and bound when they’re bought. This means less upfront costs (good!) and less worries about distribution and storage of books (good!), but I believe that margins are not so good with this method. And I’m not sure what a full-colour POD book would look like. There are a number of companies out there who produce POD books.Perhaps you think you’d like to get a printing firm to print a few hundred and you’re happy to sell and distribute it through your own networks – be they electronic or real (!). Printing copies of a text-only book using digital printing could work well, although there’s still the upfront printing costs to consider.Lastly, there’s the larger scale litho printing (which produces hundreds and/or thousands of books) which incurs large upfront printing costs, but it does have that beautiful ‘whiff’ of a traditional printing technique.So… having a realistic answer to the question ‘how many books will I sell?’ will give you an idea of how you want to print (and distribute) your book, and how long it will take to pay back the upfront costs of producing a book. It’s worth bearing in mind that some self-published titles do not cover their production costs. Grimace.As to the production of the book – well, there are many companies/freelancers who provide the services that will get words/pictures into a book format i.e. graphic designing/typesetting/desktop publishing. Or you can teach yourself, like I did. *Gulp!*Editors, copy-editors and proofreaders also carry out an essential job, and if you have the funds it’s well worth employing them. They really help to make a book look professional.Selling and distributing your book is a whole other matter…!If you’re thinking of publishing a few more titles ‘and setting up shop’, this quote may be of interest:“Starting an independent publishing company is not for the faint-hearted.”[from The Insider’s Guide To Independent Publishing (published by The Independent Publisher’s Guild)].But hard work and faint-heartedness aside, producing – and publishing – a book is incredibly exciting and rewarding. Which is why, I guess, so many people wish to take matters into their own hands and get their work published themselves.If you’re one of those persons, I wish you the best of luck!And if you’d like to remove the grimace from my face – come visit my store and buy a book! ;-)

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First steps

Just as my ten-month-old son has begun to take his first baby steps, I too, am taking my first steps into the book world with our ‘Musings’ anthology project. After months of thinking, deliberating, doing sums and many, many conversations with my husband, my first project is about to begin (probably to the great relief of my husband who is no longer being bombarded with requests for feedback on my many ideas!).I never consciously chose ‘The Adventure Journal’ as the template for my website – it was more to do with its ease of use than anything else – but it is an apt title for what I am setting out to do. I have a rough idea of the destination I’m heading for, but how I get there… well, I’ll keep you posted.I look forward to receiving some thoughtful, beautiful contributions…

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