Here I am… almost out of the thick of the woods with the last polished version of my memoir and I’m slowly attacking the publishing stage of my memoir writing journey. Of course it’s easy to compare myself with other more successful authors just when I’m getting ready to submit agent letters, but I have to constantly remind myself that the journey I’m taking looks and feels different for each author.
Just a bit over a year ago, I said goodbye to the academic world of publishing and jumped head, feet and whole body into the memoir writing world. It was a scary plunge. Although I had published my academic books traditionally, I knew in my heart, that was not the kind of writing I really wanted to do. I wanted to write a memoir about the years serving in the Israel Defense Forces which happened so many years ago.
Every author who’s serious about publishing has to grow and develop. Taking action towards your publishing goals involves learning a ton of information from vastly different areas. Publishing and writing are two different things. After switching audiences, I’ve come to realize that no matter your genre and area of expertise, there are steps of action that all authors need to take.
1. You write every day. Each time you sit to write, you deepen some knowledge of the craft, you learn the art of discipline (“butt in chair) and understand that revision is a big chunk of the writing process.
2. You read voraciously. You read what works and what doesn’t. You learn from the masters who feed you inspiration. You widely read the masters of your genre in which you want to be published.
3. You learn great copywriting skills. This is especially important for querying an agent for signing you on with a book deal. Although a query letter isn’t exactly a sales letter that one might write for a company or business, similar principles apply. You need to appeal to your target audience’s emotions and continue to “sell” your agent with emotions and logic. (Logic being the powerful features and messages of your story.)
4. You tend your platform. Brooke Warner, the editor of my memoir, has a beautifully written article on the art of platform building from scratch (love the sound of that!) which you can read here. Basically, you want to create a following to nurture your young audience that will also help support and promote you and your work. Blog writing challenges can be good in helping you build your platform from scratch.
5. You start researching (as early as possible) your publishing choices. Since publishing a book can take up a few good years from query to production process (if you are going the traditional route) you want to give yourself enough time to fulfill your goals as this is a multi-faceted and complicated process with many players involved. Obviously with so much choice in the hybrid and self-publishing route, the timeline can be considerably shortened.
6. You hire a great editor as early as possible. If you’re struggling getting the story out, what you need is an editor who can see your vision. Obviously, you’re the one to assess when is the right time to bring an editor on board. Perhaps you need time to work your story at your own pace, but all writers ultimately need good editors. There’s many poorly edited books out there which is also responsible for giving self-publishing a bad rap.
7. You think about how your book can provide additional income streams. Most authors pay think of their book as a one-time sale. But I prefer to see my book as a bestselling client magnet that will open the door to speaking and consulting. Start outlining topics that your book can help people with. You can create presentation topics. If your book is a how-to or self-help then this might be more evident than a memoir.
8. You think deeply and specifically about your target audience. Now that most of the heavy lifting of my memoir about the years serving in the Israel Defense Forces is behind me, it’s clear that the primary target audience of my book is either female or male college students or high school students with some connection to Israel or to the subject of travel. It’s a good idea to rank your target audience especially if you have a few categories that overlap.
9. You start seeing yourself as a published author. Create affirmations and visualizations. Deepen and color the picture. Even if you haven’t published yet, thinking in this way, will help your publishing goals become real. Share your affirmations online. One of my favorites which I recently tweeted was: I am
#creative. words flow freely. Can you relate?
10. You hold yourself accountable and reward yourself at various intervals. Publishing and writing are two separate animals. One is more creative and the other is more procedural and interactive. There’s a lot of self-evaluation and evaluation in general that happens. Take stock of how far you’ve come. A journal can be invaluable for recording all these “raw” and “tender” experiences.
What stage of the publishing journey are you in? Did I leave anything out?
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