How To Self-Publish: pt 3 with Otegha Uwagba
Otegha Uwagba is the founder of Women Who, a London-based community for working women. She's also a writer and brand consultant, having cut her teeth working at Vice and mega creative agency AMV BBDO. This wealth of experience left her primed to self-publish the first iteration of the now Sunday Times Bestselling Little Black Book, a succinct and zingy career guide for creative women. We picked it up the minute we'd finished listening to Otegha on Emma Gannon's excellent Ctrl Alt Delete podcast, devoured it in a day, and then bought four more copies to hand out to our friends as compulsory reading. Take it from us, you need this book in your life.
Hi Otegha! First things first - why self-publish?
I knew I wanted to make a physical item to launch alongside Women Who which showcases the kind of content that would be on the website (articles for creative women). At the time of publishing I was working in the creative industries and surrounded by zine culture. Everyone was putting their own content out in the world independently, so it felt pretty natural to do it myself.
How long did the process take from inception to distribution?
The whole process took about 3 months. From the first sketches of a chapter list that I sent to my friends, asking if this was the kind of thing they’d actually want to read, to writing it over a series of early mornings and late nights and sent it to the printer.
How did you fund the project?
I put my own money into it, so I had to be super careful about where I spent and on what.
How important was design and formatting to the process? Did you do it yourself, or did you outsource a designer?
I really love and appreciate good design, so I always wanted to make sure the Little Black Book had a visually appealing aesthetic. I have a Pinterest board where I save any visuals I like, whether that's photography, a painting, a dress with an interesting hemline…it could be anything. All of those things filter into the look and feel of Women Who.
So much of the Little Black Book's design process was influenced by print cost, but the size was also a practicality thing. When I went to the printers I took Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bitesized and easy-to-read manifesto We Should All Be Feminists as a guide. People don’t have all the time in the world; you can read two chapters of the Little Black Book on your commute, and you’ll be left with really practical things to refer back to.
How did you market your book?
I didn’t have a huge social media following - it was definitely less than a thousand. It got featured on It’s Nice That, and after that the ball just started rolling. I knew I was onto something when I did a print run of 250 copies and it sold out in 2 days, and half of them were to the US.
In the meantime, someone who bought the book messaged me and offered to put me in touch with a friend she had in publishing, who might be able to give me some advice about my second print run. I turned up to the meeting and it was with the publishing and PR Director of 4th Estate, and within five minutes into the meeting she said, “I’d like to publish this book as a 4th Estate book,” so it goes to show how varied and unpredictable the path to publishing can be.
Do… manage your costs. Think through every single element that goes into creating a book and getting it to its audience: design, typesetting, proofreading (I did that myself, but some people choose to pay someone else), materials, distribution, marketing, wastage etc. and budget accordingly. It's easy for costs to spiral out of control if you haven't thought this through properly, so plan that out in advance. Also - use CPI Print. They're super helpful and accommodating - tell Mark I sent you!
Don’t… take the opinions of strangers on the internet too seriously. You don’t have to ignore them altogether, but make sure to make your own decisions in the end.