In my last post I discussed some tips for getting your memoir down on paper. Today I’d like to talk about how to increase your chances of getting it published.

First, I’d like to say that these tips can apply to either self-publishing or mainstream publishing. In many aspects, the rules of the game are the same. Even though you don’t have to beg and fight for a publisher to get your work into print if you self-publish, either way you’ll find yourself doing the majority of the publicity for your book.

1. Find your book’s unique hook . This is similar to determining how to differentiate your memoir from all the others that have your same theme as you’re endeavoring to write your book. But when it comes to presenting your memoir to a publisher or marketing it after it’s published, it’s essential that you are able to pinpoint how and why your book is different from your competition. Otherwise, you have no way of making it stand out on the shelves or on the pages of Amazon.com. Again, find the unique angle your book has, and market toward that. Make sure your potential audience knows exactly why your book is different–and better–than the others as they read the back cover.

2. Make sure it has universal appeal. While on one hand your memoir needs to have a fresh, unique angle and hook, at the same time it must contain a universal theme. If your story is so different that only 1% of the population could relate to it, publishers will know that sales will be slim. Here the key is to hone in on how your unique story can be made to appeal to a variety of readers.

If you’re having a hard time locating its universal theme, keep backing up from your story to determine how best to generalize it. When you boil your story down, what is it really about–what’s the root? Is it a divorce story? Is it a get-rich-quick story? Ask yourself what underlying currents are in your story that a majority of people can relate to. Then, make sure this comes through in your proposal, or in your book’s marketing material, if you’re self-publishing.

3. Plan ahead for a platform. An author’s platform is the buzzword in book marketing nowadays. Because memoirs are personal stories, unless your readers already know you (or of you), who would be interested in hearing your story? It’s your job to create a buzz not only for your book but also for yourself. You do this by establishing a platform for yourself (and therefore your book) long before the book gets published.

You can do this through websites, blogs, writing articles about your topic, or having speaking engagements. The more people you can get in front of on a regular basis who represent your target audience, the better chances you have of catching a publisher’s attention. But platforms don’t magically materialize overnight. It takes time to build a platform for yourself, so start early!

4. Get objective critiques. No matter what you write, you should always have it go through a critiquing process. I believe memoirs should be subjected to even more rigorous critiquing than other work. Because you are so up-close and personal with your memoir, it can be very difficult to look at it objectively. As writers, we tend to see what we want to see–especially when the story is about us! Many people who write a memoir will show it to their family and friends to get their opinion. This is fine, but definitely don’t stop there. Because they know you, they’ll be as subjective as you are!

Take your memoir to people who don’t know your personal story. Find out if you really have a story to share. Make sure it’s interesting to those who don’t know you. And determine if you’ve done a good job at telling your story. Only then will you know if it has any potential with publishers; or, if you’re self-publishing, if people will actually buy it.

Last week I introduced you to author Monica Cane, who has become an expert of sorts in regards to self-publishing. In an effort to publish and market her own books, she has completed extensive research and learned many of the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. Today, Monica will continue her post by telling us about her most recent self-publishing experience.

Monica Cane

With my most recent manuscript, Fresh Inspiration, I went a step further in the self-publishing process.  I visited Lulu.com and found that I was able to put my manuscript together into a lovely book format by simply downloading the script into one of Lulu’s many templates.  I then was given the option to choose the font style and format I liked best and create the cover design by following Lulu’s prompts.  I used a clear nature photo that I had on my home computer,  and I have to say, it came out beautifully.

I literally did everything myself in regards to putting together my book. The most exciting part was that it didn’t cost me anything to create – only my time, which, of course, I didn’t mind investing.  Once my book was complete online, Lulu gave me the option to assign my book an ISBN number so it could be sold online.  I couldn’t believe how simple it was and how rewarding it felt knowing I had a hand in every aspect of creating the book—for free!

Sure, with self-publishing, ALL the marketing is on the author, but as the author, if you really believe in what you have written, you’ll want to share your book with others however you can throughout your lifetime.

My favorite author, Frances J. Roberts, sold over 1.5 million copies of her book Come Away My Beloved. The interesting part was that she self-published the book over 40 years ago, and she just kept sharing it with friends and family and whoever came her way.  Word of mouth travels quickly, and over time she sold so many copies of her self-published book that a traditional publisher offered to pick it up and publish it for her to reach an even broader audience through major bookstores.

Her book is now listed as a classic, but it started out as one person writing a manuscript, self-publishing it, then slowly but surely marketing and selling what she believed in. Self- publishing isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely something worth looking into if you’ve tried traditional publishers and have had little to no success or just believe you could sell your book as well as a traditional publisher could.  If you really believe in the manuscript you have written, self-publishing is a wonderful way to begin sharing your book with others.

If you’ve ever considered self-publishing a book, be diligent and do your homework. It seems the players in the self-publishing world are growing exponentially nowadays. You want to make sure to find a publisher that can best meet your needs and your budget.

If you have any questions about self-publishing, Monica would love to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact her at A Breath of Inspiration.

A few years ago, a new author contacted me to edit her book,  A Journey to Healing: Life After SIDS.  Her name is Monica Cane, and she and I have become email friends ever since. Monica is a wonderful writer, who’s worked in both fiction and nonfiction. She’s achieved success in the self-publishing world after investing much time in researching and navigating through the various avenues available.

Because of all the work she’s done in figuring out the ins and outs of self-publishing, I asked if she would share her knowledge with my readers, in hopes of saving them some time and effort if they ever contemplate self-publishing. So, here’s Monica…

Monica Cane

When I completed my first manuscript a number of years ago, I knew next to nothing about publishing options.  I contacted some of the big traditional publishers, assuming they would love my manuscript the way I did, and would want to publish it right away. Thanks to receiving numerous rejection letters, I discovered that having one’s manuscript reviewed and/or accepted by a traditional publisher was much harder than expected. It wasn’t a matter of the manuscript being bad, but as I learned, traditional publishers receive thousands upon thousands of manuscripts each year from first-time authors, therefore making it very difficult to break into the market.

While I eventually had success with a smaller traditional publisher accepting one of my manuscripts, A Journey to Healing: Life After SIDS, the initial rejection letters caused me to look into the option of self-publishing. I wasn’t sure how difficult of a process it would be, but the more I researched the different avenues for self-publishing, the more I found it to be not nearly as complicated as I originally thought it might.

I decided to plunge into self-publishing with one of my manuscripts, A Breath of Inspiration. I asked a local graphic designer to create the cover design, then found a good editor, which every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, needs. Then I hired a printer to put the book and cover together.

The price range of editors and printers ranged greatly, so I received different quotes and requested samples of the work done before making my decision. Both the editor and the printer I chose lived in different states, but thanks to email, we were able to communicate regularly. Both of them did a wonderful job!

By the time my self-published book was complete, the total cost for the cover design, editing, and printing of 50 copies was approximately $500. This was less than what I would’ve had to pay if I had ordered the same number of books from my traditional publisher of A Journey to Healing: Life After SIDS. Plus, that publisher made all the final decisions and maintained my author rights.

The biggest reward I found with self-publishing, in addition to the overall cost and being able to maintain your author rights, was being able to have complete creative control. When you’ve spent weeks, months, or even years working on a special writing project, it can be quite a struggle to turn your hard work over to someone else to make all the final decisions as to how the manuscript will be published and presented to the public.

With self-publishing, you can decide on your own book size, interior layout, and cover design, as well as the marketing plan and more. While traditional publishing certainly has its benefits, I would have to say there is something very special about being involved with your book idea from the beginning stage of a blank page to the very end, and having a published book designed exactly to your liking.

Next Monday we’ll hear more from Monica on her latest self-publishing experience as well as a tale of a classic book that began as a self-published book that the author kept selling on her own for over 40 years!
Be sure to stop back. And, in the meantime, learn more about Monica at A Breath of Inspiration.