Tag Archives: book

The Book Is Almost Here…

Anyone who has had the misfortune of interacting with me recently knows that this has pretty much been me for the past two months or so:

chicken book

My entire life has been revolving around the production of Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism and the process of getting it ready for publication.

It occurred to me that if publishing a book is like giving birth, self-publishing is like having a homebirth; while you have a lot more control over the process and freedom to call the shots, so much of it is still out of your hands. And sometimes knowing that you’re the one in charge can be a little scary, especially when you’ve been told your whole life to leave this job to the professionals. (And there will be critics. Many, many critics.)

So here’s where we’re at:

  • The “proof” (test copy) is on its way to my in-laws’, who will check it over, and, God willing, if everything’s okay–give the green light for releasing the print book! It will first be released on Amazon (in the US and in Europe), but for my Israeli customers, I will make sure it gets on the Book Depository ASAP so you can enjoy their free international shipping. (May I take a moment to whine about how shipping things to Israel is painfully slow and expensive?! If you live anywhere in the continental USA or Europe, you will probably get your hands on a copy long before I will. IT’S NOT FAIR) (Okay, I’m done)
  • The eBook is basically ready, except for the little tiny issues I keep discovering and going back to fix in a panic.
  • The audiobook… well… that’s gonna take a while. 😛 I’m very slowly blundering through this audio production business, and due to the fact that A) I have no idea what I’m doing and B) I decided not to even try to release it together with the other versions, it’s been low on the priority list… but it’ll get there!

Basically, I’m on schedule to release the paperback and eBook by the beginning of April, as planned!

!!!

And now that this phase is coming to a close, I want to share some of my favorite moments of producing the book with you.

My Favorite Moments of Producing Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism

1) Discovering, while working with Josep on the foreword, that our versions of the story of how we met are actually two completely different stories. You’ll see what I mean when you read the foreword. (Something to look “foreword” too. 😛 ) (Sorry, I had to.)

2) Designing the interior of the book. I had no idea how much fun that would be, or how exciting, when I printed out those two sample pages and shoved them in a book, giving myself a glimpse of what my book will look like!

3) If you’ve listened to me reading some of my letters on Jewish Geography, you can probably guess that I had quite a bit of fun recording the audiobook. 😉 (Less fun figuring out how to edit and master it. :-/ :-/ But never mind.)

4) Making Josep send me voice messages of himself pronouncing certain words and names for me. (For the audiobook.) Especially when he was in a public place and saying these random things into his phone and I’m imagining bystanders overhearing and looking at him like o.O. As the entire existence of this blog probably testifies, embarrassing him in public is one of my favorite pastimes. 😛

5) That awkward moment when your crazy Israeli friend decides to dedicate her book in memory of both of your maternal grandmothers… and she remembers your own grandmother’s name better than you do. (True story! 😛 ) (Okay, fine, he didn’t forget, he just accidentally gave me his mother’s surnames instead of his grandmother’s, and I’m the one who caught it. Thereby proving once and for all that Iberian naming customs are inordinately confusing.)

6) Doing the “author photo” session with super talented photographer Menucha Machluf, who also happens to be my best friend from high school. (I mention her in my post about my trip to Poland.) We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and I always enjoy every minute I spend with her.

She wanted to get some shots of me looking serious, but it wasn’t going very well, because I could not stop laughing. In attempt to stifle my mirth, most of the time, the best I could manage was a smirk.

Menucha: Think about, I dunno, laundry. Me: Laundry. Laundry is serious. I am very serious. I am an author. A serious author. Who writes about laundry. Menucha: This is gonna be a long day.
Menucha: You look… Jewish in this one. Me: What’s that supposed to mean?! Menucha: …Not that that’s a bad thing! Some of my best friends are Jewish!
“I say, old chap, this bookshelf background does look rather stuffy!”

What’s that? You actually want to see one of the good ones? 😛

Stuffy bookshelf background and reversed Chai necklace charm notwithstanding, this one was the winner.

Some beautiful shots, some very silly shots, and nonstop giggling with an old friend… what more could I ask for? 😉 (Thanks Menucha!!! <3 )

There were quite a few less pleasant moments–dealing with editing woes, for example, or just the generalized stress of sending the book out there and needing to accept that it isn’t going to be perfect and some people aren’t going to like it and some people are even going to hate it.

:-/

But the one thing I’ve been looking forward to, the image in my mind that kept me charging ahead despite my fears and misgivings, was the image of sitting down with a print copy of my book, writing a personal dedication to Josep, and shipping it off to him. 🙂 (Turns out, this particular enterprise is going to be a lot more complicated and take a lot longer to execute than I originally thought, because of the aforementioned shipping issues. 🙁 But never mind.) The book is, on surface level, a collection of letters–essays, really–about Judaism; but on a deeper level, it’s a tribute to an important friendship in my life, and the sweet fruit of a bitter struggle with a rather difficult period in both of our lives. I feel so blessed to have the privilege of honoring that friendship with something so tangible.

Oh, and one more thing:

By Waiting for the Word [CC BY 2.0]
By Waiting for the Word [CC BY 2.0]. I added the caption
😛

(Don’t get it? Click here)

A joyful Palm Sunday and blessed Holy Week to all who celebrate!

Book News: Sneak Peak & Cover Reveal!

I figured I would update y’all on what’s going on with the book, since I haven’t mentioned it since my announcement in December, and stuff has been happening!

Here’s the latest:

1) The professional editing is done; I’m still going over it to check for last-minute errors, so the text is not final yet.

2) I am almost done formatting the print book, which has been soooo much more fun than I thought it would be! Here’s a sneak peak of two sample pages I printed, cut out, and stuck in my beloved copy of Brené Brown’s “Rising Strong,” which is almost exactly the same size that LtJ will be:

The book will be printed on cream paper, not white. But isn't this awesome?!
The book will be printed on cream paper, not white (more professional-looking), but this is the general look.

3) I am also recording the audiobook! And taking advantage of the opportunity to go over the manuscript again to try and catch errors the editor may have missed. That is seriously fun too! (Wanna get a sneak preview of the *cough* melodious sound of my voice reading a letter to Josep? Check out the Jewish Geography Podcast here; I appear in several of them!)

4) It was determined that the book needed a subtitle, and I have settled on: Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism. I’m not really a fan of subtitles myself, but I want someone looking at the book to at least have some idea what it’s about, and someone searching for a beginner’s guide to Judaism to be able to find it. Titles are one of the things I struggle with most as a writer, and I’m embarrassed to tell you what an extensive brainstorming process took place before coming up with this super-obvious, simple, straightforward subtitle. (“The Non-Disputation of Barcelona1” and “Judaism for Religiously Confused People of Iberian Descent” were some of the sillier suggestions. 😛 )

4) I have designed the front cover/Kindle cover, and am still working on the back cover and spine for the print book. Ladies and gentlemen, the Kindle cover:

LtJ-cover-kindle

I made the original concept for the design with Canva (and a little help from Pixlr to remove the backgrounds on the stamps), but there was no way around moving to Photoshop at the end. Photoshop is way less dummy-friendly than Canva is and there was much hair pulling and crying out in despair before I finally got the design as I want it. But I’m very happy with it and extend my sincere gratitude to my poor patient husband (who is more experienced with Photoshop than I am and showed me how to do some things) and to the graphic design ladies on a FB group for creative people who made suggestions for fine-tuning it.

I have to say, this part of the process showed me the biggest appeal of independent publishing: getting the opportunity to do this stuff myself… and express some of my other talents and skills!

What remains to be done:

1) Finalize the text (which I will hopefully do once I’m finished recording the audiobook, and when Josep gets back to me on a little detail) (Yes, Josep, that is a hint!)

2) Finish recording, editing, and mastering the audiobook

3) Purchase ISBNs (which I’ll probably do through the Israeli authority, because the American one is ridiculously expensive and the resellers offering ones at much lower prices seem shady to me) and sort out some tax-related issues

4) Format and convert the eBook

5) Finish formatting the print book

6) Upload everything to the relevant websites, and order a sample copy to make sure the formatting is right

7) RELEASE MY BOOK TO THE KNOWLEDGE-HUNGRY HORDES

I cannot begin to describe to you how excited I am!!!

I’m estimating that the book will be ready by the end of next month, and probably in April, I’ll be “soft launching” it, releasing it on Amazon, gathering a few reviews and giving people a chance to catch any errors I may have missed before expanding to other distributors and getting more serious about promotion.

The one thing I could really use your help with right about now is gathering quotes from public figures in praise of the book/the letters.

These are those quotes that go on the back of the book and/or in the front, or in the book description on Amazon, by people whose opinion people care about.

My greatest fantasy would be something from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, but… yeah. He’s a superstar and I’m sure he has no time for things like this. I did send a request to his office, and got the auto-response I expected, which went something along the lines of, “Thank you for being in touch! Due to the volume of correspondence we receive, we will never get back to you ever.”

I have to say that this task combines all the things that are most difficult for me about promotion: not only tooting my own horn, but asking other people to toot my horn. Ugh. Not to mention the possibility that said people may not actually like what I have to offer. I’m opening myself up to a whole world of criticism and rejection here. :-/

So….. if you happen to have any connection with a public figure who may be relevant–a rabbi involved in outreach, a priest involved in interfaith dialogue, etc.–I would be so grateful if you could drop him or her a line to ask for an endorsement for me. Here’s an example of what you could say:

Dear [Adored Public Figure],

I’ve been following this blog that I’ve been really enjoying and I think is very relevant to your work. The author is going to be publishing a book in a couple months, and I think a quote from you in praise of her work would mean the world to her. She’d be happy to send you the whole manuscript if you’d like to see it, but even if you just read a couple of her posts and write even a few words on what you like about them, that would be really helpful. Here are three blog posts I think you’d particularly enjoy:

[insert links and titles here of posts you think they might like. A few suggestions: Shabbat: A Sacred Space in Time; Blessings: Finding God in an Apple; Prayer. Pt. I; The Battleground of Good and Evil; Days of Awe; I Forgave God]

With gratitude,

[You]”

If you do this for me I will love you forever. And if I get a good quote out of it, I’m sending you a free eBook & a personalized, signed bookplate that you can stick in your print copy, or frame, or whatever you like. Deal?

Again, thank you all for your help and support, you are awesome! I will keep you posted!


1. The Disputation of Barcelona. It was a thing. A dispute between Nahmanides (a.k.a. the Ramban, famous biblical commentator) and Dominican Friar Pablo Cristiani, in the 13th century. Here’s Wikipedia on it. 

Big News!

On December 21st, 2014–exactly a year ago–I started this blog by recounting the tale of how Josep and I met. Since then, I have published 85 more posts (holy cow.) and more than 12,000 people, from almost 80 countries, have visited!

And in honor of my first blogiversary… I have some exciting news to share.

You see, a number of months ago, I had a curious revelation. I had thought, all this time, that I was writing open letters to my friend in Barcelona about Judaism and Israel, and posting them on the Internet. And that was true.

But, turns out, I was also writing a book. Without even noticing!

That’s right, folks! Letters to Josep, the book, is coming soon to a bookshelf near you!

[insert tumultuous applause and cheering]
[insert tumultuous applause and cheering]
The book includes a selection of letters from the blog, adapted for print and in some cases expanded, focusing on explanations about the basic concepts of Orthodox Jewish life… and a foreword written by a mysterious individual from Barcelona, whose version of the story of the beginning of our friendship turns out to be fascinatingly different from mine. 😉

This is all very nice, you say, but why should I buy a book when I can read almost all the content in it for free right here on LetterstoJosep.com? I’ll tell you why:

1) It’s a book. Books are awesome.

2) The book does include some original content.

3) It’s basically impossible to read all the content of the blog at once. And I know there are people (myself included) who prefer to read from dead trees, or at least from a Kindle or other e-reading device. (Or to listen to audiobooks!) In other words, it will be a lot easier and more comfortable to read. (Or listen to.)

4) It makes an excellent gift for that relative or friend who wants to know more about the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Newly observant Jews, just think: you won’t have to explain a thing, just keep a pile of copies of Letters to Josep around and hand them out to anyone who looks at you funny. 😀 This could be especially useful for those family members who think you’ve gone off the deep end and joined a cult. It can deflect potential conflicts and disarm them with my charming, bubbly prose, opening up the possibility for respectful dialogue. How awesome is that?

5) …Or if it doesn’t work, you could always just use the book to hit them over the head as you yell at them to stop being so judgmental.

6) Okay I’m kidding about #5. I do not condone violence in any way, shape or form. Especially not against my book. 😛

7) This blog is a labor of love. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that someone, somewhere, found it interesting or useful. But I’ve put a lot of work into it, and obviously, no one is paying me for it. 😉 Buying the book is one way you can support me and what I do.

So why am I telling you this? Well, obviously, I want you to buy the book when it comes out! 😉 (I don’t have a specific date yet; I’m aiming for the general vicinity of March-April 2016. More specific info is forthcoming.)

But more than that–I need your help to get it there. As of now, I am planning to take the independent publishing route, but even if I manage to interest a traditional publisher, your help and support are crucial in getting the book to the people who will benefit from it. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Share, share, share. Tell your friends about the blog, and share your favorite posts on social media. If you belong to an online community that discusses religion, feel free to post links to letters to Josep that are relevant to the discussion! (And feel free to invite me to join!)
  • Write a guest letter! (Yes, you!) And encourage others to write them, too!
  • If you haven’t subscribed to the blog yet, hop to it! All you have to do is enter your e-mail address under “Subscribe to Blog via E-mail”; it’s in the sidebar on the right of your screen if you’re on a browser, or at the bottom of the page if you’re on your phone. You’ll receive an e-mail with a confirmation link; just click it, and you’re all set!
  • If you haven’t “liked” Letters to Josep on Facebook–now’s the time; better yet, invite your friends to “like” it too.
  • Do you know of a public figure–clergyman, interfaith activist, etc.–whose endorsement of the book would be valuable? Better yet, do you have access to that figure, and a way to help me get that endorsement? Let me know!
  • Do you belong to a community of people who might be interested in the book? Would you be willing to hang fliers on bulletin boards, share about the book on community mailing lists, or even potentially arrange to host an eventLet me know!
  • Stay tuned for announcements on the book’s release and further requests for help. Your reviews and ratings can make a big difference in the book’s visibility on Amazon.

If you have any information, comments or questions about any of the above, feel free to contact me via the contact form, or shoot me an e-mail at letterstojosep at gmail dot com.

I’m just gonna go ahead and put out there that I have never done this before, I have no clue what I am doing, and I am both super excited and terrified. Your encouragement, support, and enthusiasm mean everything to me, and they are what give me the courage to take the plunge and do this.

So. Um. Yay!!!