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Writing and Self-Publishing a Music Teacher Education Book up to the Editing Stage

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

This post is the first in a series of posts about my journey with self-publishing. Here are Parts 2 and 3.

1. Types of publishing

There are 3 main types of publishing: Traditional Publishing, Vanity Publishing, and Self-Publishing. Traditional publishing is when an author sends their manuscript to a big publishing house like Penguin Books or Scholastic and they decide whether your manuscript is worth publishing for them. Oxford University Press is a common publishing house for teacher education books. These companies are looking at whether it will make money for them or not and they are usually willing to pay a cash advance if it gets published which can be kinda nice. The author has some input on the final product but ultimately it is mostly up to the publishing house. They will do a chunk of the marketing but will expect you to do some as well.

Vanity publishing is like self-publishing for rich people. With this type of publishing, the author maintains much more control over the final product. Companies like Tellwell, and AuthorHouse hire editors, graphic artists, and the like to work for you on your book – as long as you can pay. You send them the manuscript and a large sum of money, and they do everything else. Part of the issue, from what I can gather, is that they will publish anything for anyone willing to pay meaning sometimes these companies get a bad rap because although many of the books they publish are good quality, a chunk of the books they publish are very low quality.

Full fledged Self-Publishing means that the author has complete control over the final product from editing, to cover design, to marketing and everything in between. Everything can be done for as little as $0.00 depending on how much the author is willing to do themselves. Using a company like Amazon’s CreateSpace (Now Amazon KDP) for your self-publishing means you keep most of the royalties and you are in complete control. You can hire editors, designers, and marketers along the way but that is completely up to you.

I chose Self-Publishing because I like to be in control of my creative endeavours and royalties are nice too. I have done some graphic design in the past but chose to work with a friend who has training in graphic design and works as a graphic designer. Also, I chose to hire an editor friend for the editing and copyediting stages. I will touch on this later on.

This post about writing and self-publishing a music teacher education book up to the editing stage gives you the pointers and inspiration you need to get going on your own book. Steve Giddings at Steve's Music is working on his first book called

2. Writing is the easiest part

As long as you have a topic you are passionate about and there is a market for it, this is incredibly easy. As well, if you write often, chances are that you have either written articles or blog posts on it in the past that would fit into your manuscript. I began the writing process in September of 2016 and was finished of the first draft by February of 2017 with the birth of my baby boy in the middle of it all. Fairly quick when you think about it. Once I had a good few chapters written, I was only able to make time once or twice a week for a couple of hours at a time to finish it and still managed to finish the first draft in that amount of time.

It is important when writing your first draft to just write and get it all out on ‘paper.’ Go back and edit later.

3. Copyright laws are things

This might have been the most frustrating and time consuming part of the process but has nothing to do with actually writing. If you need pictures, which you inevitably will in your book, you might think you can just find them on the internet – NOPE! It’s not that easy unfortunately. Since this is likely a money making venture for you, you either need to obtain the rights for the picture which can be costly, take or design a picture yourself, or find a graphic on the internet that specifically states it can be used for reuse or commercial purposes. You can set the license you are searching for on Google Images. Searching for a particular license can be frustrating because the selection of pictures and graphics with this license is extremely limiting. Out of, lets say, 1 billion pictures (for simplicity sake) on the internet, only about a quarter of them would have this license. You would think that a quarter of all the seemingly endless pictures and graphics on the internet would give you enough choice—think again. Another option for finding photos and graphics with this license is paying for the use of a stock photo library. Some can cost as little as $1 per use or can charge a yearly subscription to access the library. I ended up taking a lot of pictures myself and putting them in the book or searching for pictures with the reuse license. You might want to research the Creative Commons licenses before venturing into this.

Something I hadn’t thought of is the use of self-transcribed music in your book. Being a book for music teachers you will need, at least, a transcribed song or two in it. I originally thought that if I transcribed it myself that I didn’t have to ask for permission because I wasn’t using a transcription from the internet or the work in its original form because I was using small sections of it. Boy was I wrong again. If you are transcribing a song, even if you state it isn’t yours and that you transcribed it, someone likely owns the print rights to that song and permissions will need to be granted. Hal Leonard, from what I can tell, owns the print rights to most songs. After tons of research and figuring out who to ask, I was finally referred to Hal Leonard. They will be your best bet for a place to start if you have transcriptions in your book. They will direct you to where you need to go if they don’t own the print rights. I only have 10 measures of one song, without lyrics, solos, or vocals and a bass line only of an 8 measure phrase of another and still need permissions for this. It seems there is a flat rate for the first 2000 copies of $100 a song, no matter how much of it you are transcribing. I had another song in there for an example of how to read tablature but realized that using someone else’s song in that instance was not needed so I composed my own piece for that section. In that case, I am the only person who owns the rights to it and don’t have to pay anybody for its use.

Using quotes from books is a bit of a grey area. From what I can tell, using large sections of books need permissions, very small quotes with 4 or 5 words do not. But, if your 4 or 5 word quote is significant enough to give away the ‘essence’ of the book, permissions should be pursued. Check your local laws on this. However, you should always cite your sources and credit the authors whenever possible. During my masters degree it was easy to get into the habit of quoting everything and having papers that were largely, not my own work because it was jammed up with quotes. I find that not only was this not really my own voice, but it ruined the flow of the writing when there were a ton of unnecessary quotes. I am not saying to not give credit where it’s due but I am saying that if you don’t need to quote anyone, then don’t. My first draft had a section lifted directly from my unpublished literature review that I wrote for my masters thesis. I found, after a read through, that I needed to completely re-write that entire chapter, putting sections into my own words and taking out entire other sections that were un-needed to make it ‘fit’ into the rest of the book. The remaining chapters were largely written from my own experiences and knowledge that I have obtained throughout the years. Some of these experiences were similar to research that I found so I combined my experiences with some of the research I found and stated under that section that some of the ideas from that work were used in this section and for more information check out ‘so-and-so’ on this topic.

Inevitably, when in doubt, ask permission.

4. Editing takes a long time.

I am the type of writer who likes to brick lay. This means that I like to write a section then go back and edit it until it is pretty close to perfect and then re-edit the entire thing at the end. In writing a book, not only did I need to do that for my own sanity, but I also needed to go back and edit a chapter at a time and then the entire book at once for flow. I found that if I did too much brick laying that each chapter was slightly different in feel than the one previous to it as I only had short stints to work on it. Ideally, I would have been able to read through the entire manuscript and edit it a couple of times but I wasn’t able to find the time. I ended up going back to the ‘chapter-at-a-time’ approach and trying my best to keep the flow and consistency. Like I said earlier, the best approach is to get everything down on ‘paper’ before you edit. This way, the first draft will be done quicker and you will be much more efficient with it. Writing the entire thing without stopping to edit can, in many cases, get rid of the flow issues in the first place because everything will have been written within a much smaller time frame.

One of the biggest jobs of editing was adding in the pictures and finding the best ones for my purposes and then inserting them in the right places within the manuscript. As mentioned, this can be time consuming depending on what pictures or graphics you need. I decided pretty early on that I would hire an editor to do the editing part but I wanted my manuscript to be ‘ready’ for editing. It’s like when you hire a cleaner to come and clean your house but you have to clean your house before they come over to clean your house. A book manuscript is the same. I felt I needed to give her the best version of my manuscript that I could muster before I sent it to her for editing. In the end, it makes the editor’s job easier and costs you less money. Basically a win-win situation.

If you use these pointers to help you with getting your music teacher book to the editing stage, your work will be much more efficient. All of the research and trials have been done for you!

While my book is off being edited, I am working on the cover and looking for the best ways to format the book for Amazon for when it is ready. For the cover, I am doing most of the design myself using Canva and using a graphic artist friend to give me a second eye on the work. Stay tuned for an update in a couple months about the next steps in this process!

I hope this post has helped you get your book out there or maybe even inspired you to write one! I would love to hear your thoughts or if you have found ways that work for you that you would like to share.

Until next time, happy writing and happy musicking!

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