Memoir writing: getting to the point of publishing



Part 5 in the series ‘ who wants to read about you’. By Linda J Pifer, author of Windows and Violet Hopes.

Thinking about publishing should turn serious at this point.  You’ve written your memoirs to the best of your ability, registered copyright, obtained reviews and made some changes accordingly.  Your work has been read by a serious editor whose background is solid.  You’ve successfully worked with him or her and arrived at a workable manuscript; one that makes the most of your story and that you’re happy with. Now it’s decision time.

If you wish to submit to big publishers, an agent search is your next move.  You can scan endless possibilities over social networks or subscribe to an agent listing publication such as the Guide to Literary Agents, via the  Reading other authors’ media can also lead to the name of their agent but many agents with well-known clients no longer take new writers.  An agent should not charge you up front.  He or she will work to get you published for a percentage of earnings.  Here in the U.S. a typical percentage is in the 14% to 15% range.  If your book publisher retains translation rights, there will be additional commission to your agent in the 20% range on foreign sales.  Have your lawyer look over the contract, ask questions and get answers before signing with any agent.

If you decide to self-publish, here is ‘food for thought’:

  • Hard cover or eBook?  Both?
  • Print-on-demand hardcover?
  • What size do you envisage your book?  Coffee table show-book? (8.5 x 11″)  Soft-cover that would fit easily into a travel bag? (6 x 8″)
  • Pictures; how many colour; how many in black and white?
  • Format the book yourself or pay the publisher for the extra service?
  • Cover design/picture of your own or pay a designer?
  • Buying your own ISBNs?
  • Sell in other countries – other languages?  Recorded books?

Read all you can on the pros and cons of eBook vs hardcover; print on demand vs printing and prepare for this adventure.  Self-publishing can give you more control over the book and you retain the rights, but you’ll do your own marketing – not everyone’s talent.  Sometimes you must take the first step and trust you’ve made the right one.  Yes, it’s comparable to jumping off a cliff in your mind, but you will arrive unharmed.

I did choose a family-owned company in Canada with thirty years longevity.  Their no hard-sell approach was great; assignment of a personal company member for each step in the process, available by phone and email five days a week was terrific.  Conclusion: a good publisher will:

  • Work with you and answer questions when you hit a snag
  • Let you know if your design is practical
  • Show respect for your ideas no matter how naiive you seem
  • Discuss your budget and how many books it will buy
  • Answer your questions on pricing; how number printed affects price, what selling price would be in line with the type of book and number of pages, etc
  • Give you truthful answers whether it’s what you want to hear or not
  • Offer you a free one year webpage to sell your book from.

Formatting book pages may not be your forte but can save you money.  Software is available to give you ready-made templates.  Word is still an acceptable tool to most publishers.  Pick your publisher first so that you can format to his specifications i.e. spacing, size of page, mirror imaging, margins, gutters, bleed, and true-fonts preferred.  If you’ve designed chapter headings or captions, send an example to confirm it’s practicable.

Submit with your pictures separately from the manuscript by making a catalogue list with picture, page number, colour or black and white and a notes column.  The cost of including colour pictures is higher than for greyscale, so choose wisely.  I ultimately cut fifty-five colour pictures to ten after seeing the first cost estimate.  The book still looks good, the colour pictures are distributed evenly throughout and besides, greyscale is an art form in itself.

As always, your questions and remarks are welcome, please submit below.

Books by Linda J Pifer


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