Someone needs to pinch me. I cannot believe this day has arrived! After two and a half years of full-time work, I received the first shipment of books on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The delivery truck parked on the side of the street, opening the back of the vehicle, ready to unload the pallets on the sidewalk. Even before lowering the lift to the ground, the driver sliced open a box and handed me a copy of my freshly-printed, newly-bound book. I just about dropped to the pavement. I couldn’t believe after all these years – from the initial idea and interviews to research, transcriptions, writing, editing, and design – that I was holding Flavors of Life in my own two hands.
I think the people in the neighborhood wondered, why is this girl jumping up and down about four huge pallets of boxes? What’s inside? Why is this shipment so special?
Writing a book is one thing, but many do not know what goes into publishing and the behind-the-scenes work. The whole process is extensive, and I’d like to share my experiences – briefly – in this post.
In October 2013, after researching and outlining the concept over the summer, I made the decision to move forward, transforming my idea into a reality. I spent about a month deciding which restaurants to interview, looking at a variety of factors including but not limited to cuisine, nationality, and background story if known.
I conducted interviews in person with all of the restaurant owners, taking the time to get to know them and their story. I recorded all of the interviews, transcribed the audio files, and used those notes as the foundation for writing the book. The interview and transcription process lasted about seven months. Writing came next, followed by the first round of edits. I then met with all the owners once more to collect photographs and receive feedback on the first draft. Once all the materials were in order, I started designing the book and working with my second and third editors to ensure my work was succinct, clear, and polished. Once all the feedback was incorporated, I met with my owners for a final time to show them the end product.
After receiving the final go-ahead from my editors and the featured owners, I sent out a digital copy to the first round of readers, called beta readers. Their role is to provide general feedback – if they liked it or not – as well as see if we missed something, such as a double word or missing punctuation mark. In the meantime, I started the preparations for the launch: finalizing my marketing plan, registering for ISBN numbers, researching different retail options, launching my social media campaign, adding new features to the website, and so on.
My schedule consisted of long days, especially as the deadline of May 2016 approached. When I was not out meeting with one of my restaurant owners, I was at home writing, editing, designing, or doing something else book related. I worked seven days a week, sometimes working as many as 10 or 11 hours a day. I wanted to publish the best product possible.
The first time I saw my book was on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Felix Barenholz of MKBMedia handled the printing production, and he invited us to the facility to watch as the first pages printed. We received a comprehensive tour, learning the ins and outs of the printing process, including how they prepare the pages to run through the offset printer, as well as where the paper is stored and how the pages are trimmed to the appropriate size. They treated us with the utmost care and took the time to explain everything.
The delivery itself was a labor of love, literally. Four pallets were planted in front of our door, and we had to transport the books upstairs to our apartment. Thankfully, we have an elevator, but not much else. Each box weighs 12 kilograms (26.4 pounds), and we faced 125 boxes. I am eternally grateful that Savannah and her mom, Maggie, were there to help (and celebrate afterwards). Savannah is also an expat living here in the Netherlands, originally from Canada. We met three years ago via Twitter and have been friends ever since. More importantly, she is the author of the Sihpromatum series, memoirs documenting her family’s travels around the world. If you haven’t read her books already, you should!
We developed a system, bringing the boxes inside first then loading them into the elevator, with someone on the other end stacking them inside. About a third of the way through, we received some additional help from a neighbor, who loaned us a plank with some wheels, helping speed up the process. One hour and 45 minutes later, we crashed on the couch, soaking in the excitement. We toasted with a glass of sparkling apple cider.
I was in a state of disbelief, blown away by the fact that I really made it happen. I always talked about writing a book, but it always seemed so far off. I had no idea how or when I would make it happen. Even when I see all the books stacked in our house, I still cannot believe it; it’s real.
Friday I dropped off a couple copies to a few of the restaurant owners featured in the book, and even then, I couldn’t believe it. They introduced me to their friends and family as the author, and I couldn’t – and still can’t – believe they were talking about me and my book. I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Blaine and Peter of Restaurant Seasons. At Café het Paleis, together with Marcela and her family and friends, we sipped on our beverages on the sunny terrace. Later in the evening at Café Piazza, I chatted with owners Agata and Janek, as well as fellow author Johan. Plus I couldn’t leave without having one of their delicious pizzas!
The book is officially available on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. You can order your copy via this website (we ship internationally, and if you are outside of Europe, please contact us for a custom quote). Flavors of Life will also be on sale at local Amsterdam bookstores. I am very excited to share these stories with you!
Up next in my blog? A big THANK YOU!