WRITING YOUR STORY
IS YOUR ABUSER DEAD? If mine had been alive, I would not have been able to get my story published. Antisocial (psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists) love to sue. So I think it’s prudent for all authors to make sure that they will not be drawn into court over something they might publish. Even if you change names and locations, sometimes you can still be held liable if the abuser can prove that he could be identified by the way it was written. If you self-publish, you will want an attorney to review the manuscript (a cost to factor into the budget mentioned below). If you have a traditional publisher, they will have an attorney review the final manuscript well into the further editing that you will do for them.
HAS THE STORY BEEN WRITTEN? There are many stories of abuse out there. For an agent to take notice there must be something unique about the story beyond survival. So a lot of thought ahead of time is required before spending many, many hours on something that may go nowhere. Check out other abuse and survival memoirs and see how they how selling. What makes your story different from them? What would make your book sell? This is not said to discourage you from writing….It’s just a reality check on the process.
GATHERING DATA: If you feel you need to write a book about your journey, you can start by gathering your data and recoding it in chronological order. Then you can decide where to go from there. It may be that just expanding the facts into a rough draft will be enough for you to process what’s happened in your life. Some who contact me have already done this step.
WRITING CAN BE CATHARTIC: Writing your story may help you process what happened. So even if you choose not to publish, you many benefit from putting the words down on paper or on the computer screen.
LEARN TO WRITE TO SELL: I learned to write beyond my experience in business writing. From what I have learned about the publishing business, I have found that there is not a lot of money to be made unless you hit the NY Times Bestselling List. If you made $20,000 that would make you a mid-list author and not many authors even attain that level. Many authors, traditional or self-published, do not sell more than a couple of hundred books. Also, remember that an agent will not even consider a manuscript if it is not well-written and edited. One way to lean to write is to join a writer’s club where you can meet other writers and hear speakers on how to write and publish. In California the California Writers Club is a statewide organization with branches throughout the state. Check out college or junior college or adult school writing classes. And I am sure in this time of the internet, there are online writing groups, too. Writing conferences and workshops are held throughout the country. Writing critique groups are a good way to craft your story. Writing books abound. But watch the budget. There are many ways people are marketing their wares to aspiring writers. Many are legitimate, many are not.
GET BETA READERS: Once you have your manuscript finished, you need feedback to get your manuscript in its best form. Use beta readers, preferably someone who is not a good friend or relative. You should not pay for this, but you could offer a free book when it’s released.
GET A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR: After you have polished you manuscript based on input from your beta readers, you must get
a professional editor. The average cost for a good editor is $10 per page. I eventually paid almost $4,000 to have my manuscript edited and polished. But it may not need to cost this much. An agent will want a polished book. This step is especially important if you choose to self-publish. No one wants to read a poorly written, poorly edited piece of work.
LEARN ABOUT PUBLISHING: I read how-to books and attended conferences to learn how to get published. I was surprised to find out how much marketing an author has to do to sell his/her book, even if they get a traditional publisher. Check out BOOKS ON PUBLISHING AND WRITING to see books that helped me. Check out INTERNET SITES for information on the craft of writing and publishing. There is also a good list of resources on JANE FRIEDMAN’S web site. I have attended several of her on-line seminars sponsored by The Author’s Guild. I found her spot-on and she shares lots of information at her web site. You can sign up for free or for pay newsletters. This is a good way to keep on top of the ever-changing publishing world.
LEARN ABOUT MARKETING: I have heard many authors complain that they only want to write the book. They do not want to do all the hard work required to market it. If you aren’t willing to market it, don’t publish it. Check out PUBLICITY for the many marketing steps I have done as events even though I was traditionally published. You can only make it with self-publishing if you are willing to put in a LOT OF WORK for marketing and publicity. And, of course, the Internet is a valuable marketing tool. But remember, if you decide to use a marketing company, check them out thoroughly first and pay attention to how much you are paying for what you get. Remember that budget! Writing and publishing is a business.
DECISION ON HOW TO PUBLISH: There is always the decision as to whether a writer should get an agent or self-publish. I can’t advise you either way. As mentioned before, each writer’s journey is different. It’s hard to get an agent. It’s not that hard to self-publish, especially through Amazon’s KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING. A Word document must be formatted to sell as an e-book. MARK’S LIST provides the names of people who charge a reasonable fee to format your book and design a cover.. A good source to keep up-to-date with the latest in the published world is JANE FRIEDMAN’S web site.
DO NOT PAY AN AGENT OR PUBLISHER: One thing is for sure….you should never pay to have your book reviewed by an agent. Also, if you self-publish, you should never pay to have it done. There are companies out there who will charge you $4,000 to do it and, in all likelihood, you will never get your money back in sales (remember as stated above….most authors only sell 100 – 200 books). Search the Internet for any red flags about the reputation of an editor or publisher that you think you’ve found to work with you and definitely check them out before you sign any contracts.
FINDING AN AGENT: If you choose to try to publish traditionally you will need an agent for the larger publishing houses. Some smaller houses will take direct queries, but they are few and far between. Either way, you need a strong book proposal that includes more than a cover letter. Check out BOOKS ON PUBLISHING AND WRITING to see books that helped me write my proposal. As for which agents to approach….go to a bookstore or library and find women’s stories. Pay attention to the publisher. Also check out the “thanks to” section to find the author’s agent. Or use the Internet to search for agents taking memoirs. If you query online, be sure you explicitly follow the directions from the agent.
REJECTION HURTS: One must be able to take rejection and negativity. There’s plenty of it out there. I was able to shoulder this because I did my recovery work and I was strong enough to take it. Many agents will send a rejection letter or you may even never hear from them. Many victims don’t realize how the public will turn on them and think it’s the victim’s fault. If you want to see what I mean, go to my Amazon book page and look at the one and two star reviews. So if one is suffering from PTSD because of her experience, putting oneself out in public may not be mentally healthy.
WRITING AND PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS: You must take a hard look at the bottom line. How much will you be able to spend to get your manuscript ready? How much will you be able to spend in marketing? Even if you have a traditional publisher you will have expenses associated with marketing such as travel expenses, books to sell, bookmarks, etc.. Publishers do not do book tours for most authors. How much will you earn? You need to operate with a budget unless you are independently wealthy. How much can you afford to lose if the book doesn’t sell?
THE REALITY OF PUBLISHING: My recommendations for anyone who wants to publish their life story are found in all of the above. They are not provided to discourage you from your publishing quest They are provide so you know the reality of getting published….the good, the bad and the ugly.