Steuben Author Highlight: Karen Barbee

If you find yourself yearning for a taste of the simpler life in our over-stimulated, over-worked, and over-stressed society, you’re sure to find escape in the pages of Karen Barbee’s new book, The 406 Table.

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Inspired by the Barbee’s childhood in rural Montana, this creative lifestyle book brings together 124 comfort food recipes, hundreds of gorgeous photos from Big Sky Country, short stories from the farm, and loads of inspiration for hosting your own country chic parties.

We recently sat down with Barbee to talk about her journey to becoming a self-published author — what inspires her, the challenges she has faced along the way, and her advice to others looking to follow in her footsteps.

1. When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

I’ve always wanted to write, but life is busy and I’d never made the time until now. I also struggled with confidence, until I told myself I was a storyteller first, author second. Once I took that viewpoint, it became easier.

2. How did you find your publisher? If you're self-published, what was your process in choosing to self-publish?

I did a lot of research in the self-publishing arena. It was my editor Tammy Goodman, with Intermountain Business Consulting, who discovered Steuben Press

We collaborated on reviewing my research of other book-printing companies and compared them to the services offered by Steuben. Their printing service was more compatible and affordable, as my book was already edited, designed and laid out.

3. What are some challenges you encountered during the self-publishing or publishing process? 

I was a novice about self-publishing. I forced myself to research, take notes, make phone calls and watch YouTube videos of authors’ experiences. I dove deep into the process, but was skeptical and had many reservations. I was self-funded and worried about getting scammed. 

Every time I contacted independent publishers, I received a lot of interest. They thought my book concept was intriguing; however, several felt that a certain part of the book should not be included. I trusted my gut and included it anyway. 

Interestingly, I receive more compliments about that section, which was the one that some independents recommended I omit. While they are the professionals, I trusted my instincts. Had I not, the book would not be as well received. 

At one point, I was in talks with a bigger, traditional publisher — there was some buzz about offering me a contract, but the revisions and proprietary aspect were deal breakers for me. 

They also said my photograph quality was in question, and wanted me to hire a professional photographer. I didn’t have the funds for that. 

I did all the photography myself with a Nikon camera from Walmart, for $189. After some Photoshop editing, the photos turned out beautiful, proving where there’s a will, there’s a way.

4. How did you choose your book printer? What was the biggest challenge, surprise, or joy when printing your book?

After reading about Steuben being a printing service, I found it was the most affordable way to proceed. I edited and edited to no end, yet there still ended up being a couple of mistakes. All in all, though, it went pretty smoothly. 

There were some challenges getting it just the way I wanted, especially since the book is large and has hundreds of full-color images. The Steuben staff worked to help me get it right in a timely manner.

I feel joy every time I hear how beautiful the book is, and how people feel when they receive their copy.

5. How did you choose the cover design for your book?

Collaboration was key! My editor Tammy Goodman and I discussed my vision. We were both very particular on the message of the cover. 

A picture that I had taken on a whim became the top portion. It really reflects the essence of Montana. When I saw how it turned out on the cover, it was thrilling! 

The bottom two pictures had great meaning to me personally, so when Tammy chose to include them on the cover, it was the icing on the cake. I was pleased with the images as they suggested more about the book’s content.

Tammy’s vision for the center band/buckle was genius. She is a stickler for font and what she chose was perfection! Her layout for the cover was incredibly beautiful, plus my photos (which had been in question from publishers) looked gorgeous! 

Your book’s cover is your calling card — do not take shortcuts! Spend the money you need to and you won’t regret it.

6. Do you have any advice for self-published authors looking to find a printer?

While I am not an expert, I would suggest doing your homework. I read reviews, authors’ comments, and looked everywhere for anything I could find, favorable or not.

I also trusted my vision for the book. When someone didn’t understand it and how it would translate, I had to pass on their services. It is a daunting task, but patience equates to quality.

7. What book should everyone read right now and why?

I’m currently working on my second book. Sadly, I don’t have time for reading right now — all my time is dedicated to writing and filling book orders!

Author Karen R. Barbee has spent 32 years in the hospitality industry. Her experience running her own events company, staging homes, and interior decorating has given her the unique insights that make for a memorable debut in her book ‘The 406 Table’.

As an author, she shares her love of Montana, farm stories from her childhood, coveted recipes, historical information of her home state, and photos that showcase it all. 

Readers will delight in the author’s inside information about some of her most treasured parties and events. Karen’s creativity is surpassed only by her enthusiasm to ensure everyone feels like family, make little moments a big deal, and celebrate life right down to the last detail.

Ready to start your own self-publishing journey? Read tips for becoming a successful self-published author on our blog »

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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I set the price, I collect the checks, and Steuben Press does all of the work. It’s a relief to know I never again have to print, package, and ship a book myself. The convenience is outweighed only by their professionalism.

– Andy Phelps, Michigan

Check out “It Never Ends” at www.andyphelps.net/book