Jack Sonni on Self-Publishing

Writing a book is an amazing experience. As is being able to publish your story, your way. Self-publishing has enabled authors to tell the stories they want to tell, when they want to tell them. It’s allowed authors to use formats previously discounted for specific genres. And it’s allowed authors to publish outside of their known expertise.

When Jack Sonni started his career, publishing a cookbook was not exactly on his radar. Music was his passion, and he achieved a level of success most musicians only dream of: Jack was “the other guitar player” in Dire Straits during their mid-80s heyday. But two of Jack’s other passions—cooking and the communal experiences people share over good meals—were always in the back of his mind. And that’s how Gatherings came about.

After relocating to Healdsburg—a city located in Sonoma County, California—several years ago, Jack fell in love with the cultured but unpretentious way of life there. One evening, over a wine-filled meal with friends, the idea was hatched to make a cookbook that celebrated the culinary artists working in Healdsburg and the community that surrounds and supports them. Local residents have wholeheartedly embraced the farm-to-table mentality, and have a great appreciation for the bounty of the surrounding vineyards, farms, and fields.

A scant eleven weeks after that fateful dinner, Jack and his friends were holding copies of the finished and ready-to-be released book.

Gatherings farro salad recipe

Eleven weeks. Recipes, wine selections, photography, profiles of the chefs and winemakers, layout and design, editing, proofs and approvals—all completed in eleven weeks.

“Self-publishing is the only way I could have made this happen. With a traditional publisher, it would have taken that long to get an appointment to possibly talk about getting a chance to discuss the idea of pitching the idea of the book.

I’m an impatient, restless creative type. Being faced with the prospect of knocking on doors and pitching the idea of Gatherings to traditional publishing houses just sucked the life right out of me—and the project. That process can take weeks, months, years, trying to find someone who gets the idea and is willing to invest not only the financial backing but the marketing muscle to get it out into the world with enough fanfare and focus to make it a success. This was time I didn’t have. I had a small window of time to dedicate to the project before I took up the Writer in Residence position I had been awarded at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, where I planned to finish my long-toiled-over memoir.

Gatherings represents the work of a small band of passionate collaborators dedicated to producing the finest book possible given the constraints of the project. The timetable and the unique bespoke design of the banded six booklets dictated layout, written content, and photography. In retrospect, these limitations removed much of the debate that can bog projects down and enabled us to move quickly through the entire process.

Gatherings raw zucchini salad recipe

But self-publishing is not without its challenges. Getting to the final product is in many ways the easy part. The advance of digital technology and the Internet has given artists of every discipline a bigger freedom than ever before.

It is entirely possible now to circumvent the middleman—the publishing houses, the record labels, the galleries, the film companies—those gatekeepers who have always held distribution channels in their iron grasps and controlled an artist’s fate. Book self-publishing puts the control and a greater portion of the profits back into the artist’s hands.

Sure, with that possibility comes the challenge of how to use the Internet and ubiquitous social media sites and apps to find, connect with, and to grow a legion of fans and turn them into a paying customer base. And that requires time, energy, knowledge, and relentless self-promotion.

Having a finished book, a website, active Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and an email database are just the beginning. An artist then needs to solve the problem of being one tiny tree falling in the vast forest of the interwebs. Once your friends and family buy your book, you need to reach beyond that small circle in order to establish sales to not just cover the production costs, but to actually create a revenue stream.

Freedom comes with a price. And for the new artist economy, driven by technology, that price is time and sweat equity. Finding partners to help handle the areas of the business outside of their comfort and knowledge zones.”

Marketing your book or publication as much as possible, across as many social media outlets as possible. Spreading the word. And ultimately, working on projects that feed you. That feed your passions and your hobbies. And that can potentially seed your next career, where books are part of a much bigger picture.


This post doesn't have any comment. Be the first one!

hide comments

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!