How I Self-Published a Book as a Writer Who Is Visually Impaired

maribel and harry toasting each other

What better way is there to leave a legacy to your family than to self-publish your own book? A book with stories and family recipes from three generations to nourish their future? This was my reason for keeping my publishing project a secret from my family so that I could produce the final book as a Christmas gift to my grown-up children. Come behind the scenes to discover how, as a writer who visually impaired, I created my book with three "helper elves" to make my legacy a reality.

A Precious Gift

The bright spark of an idea came to me in a flash three months before Christmas. I’d write a recipe book as a surprise and gift it to them for the festive season. But how to whip up a batch of family favorites and a collection of anecdotes in time seemed total fantasy.

I raced over to share my basket of thoughts with a visual artist and friend. Being new in the book design business, she loved the heritage cookbook concept and jumped at the challenge. We gave each other a big "high five," our hands clapping loud in the air. "We can do it, girlfriend," she said.

There was no time to waste. In the following few weeks, I pulled apart all of my recipe books on the kitchen shelf, and using my CCTV (electronic magnifier), searched for recipes in my old school books and recipe folders with my mother’s favorites too. With my technology for the blind, I used JAWS (a screen reading program) to make the task of writing out the recipes and short stories an independent task to file into my laptop. I could hear it all making some sort of sense and sent manic instructions across cyberspace to my book-buddy creator, Bee.

Rounding up Helper Elves

Two helper elves also had to be sworn to secrecy as there would be no other way to produce a quality book without their invaluable expertise and loving support. One was my father, a seasoned writer and editor who often worked well into the night to edit the manuscript as it appeared in many versions. As if by magic, he often sent my pieces back, all neat and tidy, ready in my inbox the next morning.

The other was my life-partner, an ever-ready helper who checked the visual aspect of the pre-published files. He scanned and cropped the images we chose together, making sure that none of the photos of my family contained any little people in their birthday suits!

An Eye and an Ear for Detail

My book was designed to be in full color, a recipe book that was attractive and practical. With Bee’s artistic eye, coupled with my keen sense of hearing to keep track of her audio guidance through the pages on her computer screen, it was extremely important for both of us to be precise in the use of our design language.

maribel and Bee working on publishing book on computer

When it came to the short stories, I sat with a bright overhead lamp and peered through a magnifying glass to read out loud the edits and changes required as I worked slowly through proofreading pages. Bee clicked through the pages on screen to make sure the design, fonts, and photos were visually pleasing as we used a publishing template by an online program with a company called "Blurb."

Hit the Publish Button

book cover my mother's harvest with picture of sunflower

On the very day we had set aside as our deadline, all the files were ready. We checked everything meticulously. All seemed good until Bee stopped to ask one final question, "Do you want the pages to be printed on matte paper or on gloss?" Sitting perched on the edge of my chair, seconds away from pushing the one very important button, "publish now," I felt a rush of panic and indecision: this final choice was a visual one. I called my partner, who had no confusion—"Gloss," Harry said.

Bee and I held hands and took a deep breath. Seconds later on her computer, the message read, "Congratulations. Your publication has been successful." My Mother’s Harvest: A Collection of Family Recipes & Short Stories gave my family the best Christmas surprise ever.

Being a print book, I can order on demand. I planned a book launch as my friends were also keen to have a copy. The surprising part of self-publishing my book was the interest it created from people I had never met and how it opened a whole new world of contacts internationally when I became a published author.

About My Mother’s Harvest

My Mother’s Harvest ebook contains a selection of family recipes that have nourished three generations. In the second half of this e-book, Maribel Steel recalls stories from her childhood, making the connection between Spanish and English culture and cuisine and how these colors and flavors have become a part of the lives of her Australian children.

Do you have a story behind the scenes of your book too? Please leave your comments.

Further Reading

Reading and Writing Blind with My Buddy Called JAWS

Self-Publishing: A Pathway to Sharing Your Story

Self-Publishing: Challenges and Rewards