Telling Your Story
Everyone has a story to tell. Whether that story is funny or sad, if it’s your own story you may be wondering whether it’s worth sharing with the rest of the world. And, by the way, that decision to publish your story is largely yours to make. Increasingly, independent and self-publishing options gives every aspiring writer the opportunity to publish their work if and when they are ready, not when some traditional publishing house determines whether the work merits publishing, but more about that below. If you’re considering telling your story, you might even wonder about how much to share. A reminiscence of a particular personal experience places your story in the literary genre of non-fiction memoir. Expand your story to encompass your entire life, and you move into the realm of the autobiography. Should you write your story? If a personal experience is compelling, inspiring, and/or motivational it may well be appreciated by others in need of the particular tonic your story serves up. If your life story in and of itself is revelatory, thought-provoking, instructional, or just plain humorous, then consider the value of sending it out into the universe.
A good place for a novice to begin is with the memoir. It is obviously less extensive then the autobiography and represents an assemblage of some of your life’s personal snapshots. Keep in mind however, that though it may not encompass your entire life, it will nevertheless benefit from a thematic approach- think “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, or “Dreams From My Father” by Barrack Obama. Your memoir makes you a kind of tour guide that takes a reader with you through your journey, so your job is to make your readers want to follow you through every page. You’ll write your memoir in the first person and rely on your ability to illuminate your story with captivating and vivid language- no snoozing permitted on the journey. Could anyone really be bored while reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou?
If you are concerned about getting started- don’t be; just start typing or writing in long-hand if that is your preferred writing style. Note however, that writing in long-hand invariably means that if you seriously mean to publish, you will ultimately have to produce a typed manuscript. Unless you have amazingly great handwriting, that a typist other than you can readily read, you would be well advised to become acquainted with a personal computer; this really makes the editing process much easier for you and an editor. As far as determining what to write, you may find it helpful to use memoir prompts. Memoir prompts like “write about the places you have traveled to”, or “write about the people who have influenced you” can get you started. They really are great at nudging you along when you’re not sure exactly how to get moving. Google the phrase “Memoir Prompts” and you will retrieve hundeds of them. While your memoir may consist of various subjects, consider ways to integrate each of your stories. Developing a unifying theme throughout can help you achieve that.
Finally, having written your memoir, it’s time to consider how to go about getting it published. Be sure that you have your manuscript reviewed by a professional editor. You really can’t be your own editor. As you attempt to review your own work, your mind plays tricks on you because it compensates for what should be on the page. An editor is objective, and well worth the price. Once your book has been properly edited, it’s time to decide how you will publish. Traditional publishing houses are competitive. They receive hundreds of manuscripts annually. For this reason, self-publishing has become a popular option for many new writers. Independent book publishing can be as rewarding as traditional publishing; however, it is important that authors do their homework. Consider what services an independent book publishing company offers, what you can afford, and the royalty structure. In a future article we will discuss more best practices for getting your manuscript published.
Understanding the Publishing Process
New authors often view the publishing process as largely centered on the completion of their manuscript. Receipt of the galley with its polished new cover is a heady feeling that can lull a debut author into thinking that nothing more is required. The fact is that receipt of the galley does not represent the end of the publishing process. Production of the galley is a part of the process that includes copy-editing, page layout, book cover design and finally printing. Perhaps the word “finally” is a bit misleading, as the author’s role is far from over once the galley is produced. At this stage, the author must come to grips with the possibility of having to revisit the manuscript to ensure appropriate corrections have been made.
New authors should welcome the opportunity to become familiar with every stage of the publishing process. Understanding the process will help them play a more collaborative role in the publication of their book, and understand the role a publisher plays in producing a marketable product. With respect to the editing process, new authors should expect that after submission of a manuscript, a reputable publisher will actually review and critique the book. Publishers concern themselves with the process of putting a book together. This includes consideration of both front and back matter. Front matter for example, consists of pages that appear in the front of the book, such as the copyright, page, title page, and the table of contents. Other front matter pages may include a forward, a dedication and perhaps an aknowledgements page. In contrast, back matter pages might include an index, a bibliography, and/or an author biography. These elements combine to help create the completed work. A publisher will often handle the acquisition of Library of Congress Control Numbers, (LCCN) and ISBNs. The latter known as the International Standard Book Number is a unique 10 to 13–digit number that identifies a specific book or edition of a book. Booksellers and libraries for instance rely on the ISBN for the purchase and sale of books all over the world. The LCCN is the number associated with the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress for a given book.
Publishers determine the interior layout and design for a book, with consideration of the need for headers/footers, pagination etc. In addition, part of the process of putting a book together requires consideration of both front and back matter. Front matter consists of pages that appear in the front of the book, such as the copyright, page, title page, and the table of contents. Other front matter pages may include for example, a forward, a dedication and perhaps an acknowledgements page. In contrast, back matter pages might consist of an index, a bibliography, and/or an author biography. These elements combine to help create the completed work. A publisher will often handle the acquisition of Library of Congress Control Numbers, (LCCN) and ISBNs. The latter known as the International Standard Book Number is a unique 10 to 13–digit number that identifies a specific book or edition of a book. Booksellers and libraries for instance rely on the ISBN for the purchase and sale of books all over the world. The LCCN is the number associated with the bibliographic record created by the Library of Congress for a given book.
Another one of the more interesting and perhaps challenging aspects of assembling a new book is the cover. It has been a long held belief that a cover can make or break the success of a book. While that assertion may be arguable, it really does make sense that an interesting attractive book cover is more likely to lull a shopper than one lacking in any appeal. The cover is no doubt an element of the process an author should consider. A publisher should certainly be open to hearing from its authors about any ideas they may have for the book. However, in the end, the publisher fully informed about readers tastes, literary trends, and marketing is in the best position to be the final arbiter of what will work. Here is where collaboration between author and publisher becomes so important. Last, but not least, there is the printing process to consider. In a future article, we will discuss the physical aspects of putting a book together.
Strategies for Effective Book Promotion
For many new authors publication of their new book represents a culminating event. The truth is the hard work has just begun. While your book is available for sale at websites like Amazon or at sites like barnesandnoble.com, it is one of thousands competing for the attention of readers. Publishers unfortunately have limited time and resources, for they are largely responsible for putting the book together and making it available for sale. Promotion on the other hand, requires an entirely different effort. As part of its promotional services, Escribe Publishing provides its authors with five media kits, press releases, and Featured Author coverage on our website. Our promotional program is really part of a kick-off designed to create a little buzz for our authors and inspire them to continue the book promotion process.
There are a number of options available to authors interested in garnering the kind of attention necessary to rise above the competition. It is important that new authors prepare a promotional budget, and begin to think of their book as something of a commodity. Like a personal budget, your expenses will likely reflect your financial resources. The good news however is that book promotion need not land you in the poor house, as there are a variety of options designed to fit nearly every budget. Consider the following promotional strategies:
- Prepare an e-mail blast announcing publication of your book to all of your contacts.
- Create an author fan page on Facebook.
- Send copies of your book to local media outlets. Many do book reviews on a monthly or weekly basis.
- Submit your book or individual works to book contests. See http://www.newpages.com/classifieds/writingcontests/
- Get your book reviewed by professional book reviewers, i.e. Midwest, Kirkus, Clarion
- Add the name of your book and a buy-the-book link to your e-mail signature.
- Join the goodreads.com Author Program. This site is a great book promotion tool.
- Sign-up and submit content about your book with Amazon’s Author Central. See https://authorcentral.amazon.com
- Encourage your friends and family to write reviews of your book. Reviews can be posted through your Author Central account.
- Join book clubs. See for example, https://www.librarything.com/
- Submit your book to blogposts. Checkout for example, http://savvybookwriters.wordpress.com/category/blogging/
- Contract with a book publicist. A publicist can identify and set-up speaking engagements, book tours etc. Ask your Escribe representative for a list of available publicists.
- Join a writers meet-up group; you can find a list of them at www.meetup.com
Please let your Escribe representative know if there is anything, we can do to assist you with implementing your marketing plan.
Note: The citing of websites referred to above, does not denote endorsement or warranty by Escribe Publishing Inc. of any kind. Readers are advised to do their own research and verification of the sites contents and services for themselves.
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