My Self-Publishing Story, With Elin Criswell
“Hi, my name is Elin Criswell and I’m a a fourth-generation Texas soapmaker of Swedish descent, who’s been making soap for over 10 years.” Yes, that’s how Elin, owner of The Country Soaper, outside Austin, Tx, introduces herself. I’d say she’s got the elevator speech down. No need to ask for clarification either, and if you do, Elin is likely to launch into a rendition of a song (yes, a song) she wrote about making soap.
I know this is true because she performed it at the Lone Star Soap & Toiletries Conference, which she co-hosted with another soapmaker, Starlene Moore, and which I key noted. Last month, Elin published her first book, Creative Soap Making. I am honored to be featured in it, along with other soapy types, as you’ll see below. I am very excited for Elin, and I asked her to share a bit about why and how she published her book.
dM: What drove you to write Creative Soap Making?
Elin: I’ve enjoyed writing much longer than I’ve been a soapmaker, so writing a book on the subject was a natural. My book is an extension of my soap business, and a practical way to accomplish what I really enjoy doing, and that is teaching others the soap making craft. There are many soap making books on the market today, so, obviously, I’m not the only one who thinks we can have even more books on the subject. You never know what you can learn from another soapmaker. You could learn a new trick or tip that you hadn’t thought of before, this is part of what makes soap making so unique.
I wanted to write a book to appeal to new and experienced soapmakers. For beginners, my book includes an overview of different soap making methods, instructions on how to make cold process soap, and tips for creating your own recipes. The book also includes profiles of six well-known soapmakers, pioneers and leaders in the industry, who share words of wisdom and their thoughts on the future of our craft. A lot can be learned from the experiences of Catherine Failor, Milky Way Molds; Sandy Maine, SunFeather Natural Soap Company; Anne-Marie Faiola, Bramble Berry, Inc.; Donna Maria Coles Johnson, Indie Beauty Network; Irene Linauer, Irene’s House of Soap; and Kayla Fioravanti, Essential Wholesale.
dM: How did you decide which recipes to include, and which soap makers to feature?
Elin: I like to emphasize the basics, so I included two basic recipes for beginners, plus popular soap recipes like Oatmeal and Lavender soap. My personal favorite is Peppermint Tea Tree, and the rest of the recipes are practical ones that you often hear people asking for like Baby Soap, Facial Bar, Mature Skin Soap, Shaving Soap, and Kitchen Soap.
To decide who to interview, I simply approached those I consider the most well-known in the industry. I thought it would be interesting to hear what they have to say.
dM: Who is Danny Criswell, mentioned in the book?
Elin: Danny is my husband, the love of my life for 24 years and counting Ever since our early days of marriage, Danny has supported my entrepreneurial efforts, which have sometimes been laughable. He has referred to me as “Lucy” (as in, Lucille Ball), saying, ‘What hair-brained idea have you come up with now?’ He was relieved when I finally settled down with soap making!
My oldest daughter, Becky, is at my side at every craft show, and my son, Daniel, helps package my wholesale soap orders. My youngest, Susan, makes melt and pour soap and says she wants to follow in the family tradition to become a fifth-generation Texas soapmaker of Swedish descent.
dM: How did you publish the book, and what was the financial investment?
Elin: I used Morgan Printing and Publishing in Austin, TX.
In this modern age, the dream of writing and publishing your own book can be more easily achieved than ever before through self-publishing. Gone are the days where a writer’s only option was to submit to big publishing houses and face rejection after rejection. It is quite a project, quite the undertaking, but if you are willing to take on the task, you can be both writer and publisher of your own book.
Having gone through the process, I have more of a perspective on how publishing works. I also understand how big publishing houses can get away with having strict contracts with authors. I am so thankful for the opportunity to self-publish. In doing so, I retain all the rights tor my own work and will also receive all the profit.
It took approximately $3,500 to publish Creative Soap Making, including related business costs. But like the commercial that give prices for different things, and ends with the line, “priceless,” it’s hard to put a price on the entire investment. For example, you can’t put a price on the many hours it will take you to research and write a book. But when you have a dream, you keep at it. You keep doing what it takes to get it done, until you see your dream become reality.
dM: Where did you get the money?
Elin:Through a marketing email newsletter, I learned about Kickstarter, a website that helps people fund creative ideas and endeavors. It is powered by an all-or-nothing funding method. Projects must be full funded or no money changes hands. All projects must be related to the arts, and you must submit a proposal to be accepted before you can proceed.
Once accepted, each project creator is in charge of his or her own fundraising. Each project has a goal dollar amount and a time limit (from 1 – 90 days), both set by the project creator. When the deadline is reached, and the project is successfully funded, all supporter credit cards are charged and funds go directly to the project creator’s Amazon Payments account. The project creators are then responsible for completing their project and delivering the promised rewards.
If the projected is not funded, the fundraiser ends with no money changing hands. Kickstarter operates by charging successful project creators 5% of funding projects The only other fees are regular credit card collection fees from Amazon Payments.
I am very fortunate in that my fundraiser was successfully funded over the summer! The support of 58 backers (from 12 states and Canada) enabled me to raise $2,500 toward the publication of my book!
dM: What other valuable resources can you share with would-be self-publishers?
Elin: I cannot stress the significance of Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual, Volume 2: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print, &) (Affiliate link) It helped me through the self-publishing process in many ways. You’ll also find tons of helpful free information at Dan’s website. If you’re really serious, while you’re there, be sure to pick up his e-book, Book Printing at the Best Price.
dM: What other benefits are there to publishing your own book?
Elin: When you self-publish, you become the publisher, establishing your own publishing house, so to speak. I published my book under my soap business brand of The Country Soaper. Now that I am my own publisher, I could pursue publishing as another business, publishing books for others. That’s not necessarily what I want to do, but it’s now a viable option.
dM: You can see Elin’s proud Kickstarter “Successful Funding” announcement here. Elin promotes her book online and through in-person book signings. You can find out more at her website. Elin’s book will also be sold at INDIEgu!
Elin is a member of IBN and fine example of a woman who set a goal, and pursued it with dogged determination for 12 full months. I remember when she first emailed me saying she was going to write a book and wanted to know if she could interview me for it. Of course, I was honored, but who knew whether she’d follow through? Well, she did, and how! For 6 months, I got at least one email every few weeks from Elin letting me know how things were going.
I saw this project take shape from the seed of an idea in Elin’s mind, to full-blown fruition. Ladies and gentlemen, Elin is a leader and an amazing example to follow! Speaking of which, you can follow Elin on Twitter here.
Question: Do you love Elin’s story and tips? Are you going to publish a book of your own too? Tell us about it so we can root for you too!
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