“I’ve had a hard life,” Eager New Writer says. “It’s an amazing story. All my friends say I need to write a book. I know it would be an encouragement to everybody who reads it.”
Just a few short years ago, I’d dread hearing those words because I knew the writer was most likely headed for a huge disappointment. Back then, publishers weren’t buying any personal stories or memoirs unless the author was a celebrity or already had a huge following.
Thankfully, that’s not the case these days. Please understand that doesn’t mean editors are rushing to buy every memoir and life story they can find, but at least now they may take a look at it.
It’s absolutely clear that personal stories can be powerful. They can touch hearts and make people think. They can even change lives. But they can still be a hard sell.
Does that mean Eager New Writer’s experiences don’t count or that Christian publishers don’t care about what she’s been through? No. It just means that even though Christian publishers want to point readers to Christ, they must make a profit in order to do so. And in many cases of personal stories, they just aren’t able to sell enough of those books to make a profit.
So what’s a writer to do? What if you do have an amazing story that would be an encouragement to others, but you’re unable to find a publisher who is willing to take a risk? The good news is, you have options.
But before we look at these other options, please, please, please make sure your book is professionally edited and truly ready for publication. Poorly-written books won’t sell, regardless of the route you go. So if your book has been repeatedly rejected by publishers, first make sure the rejection is because of a financial decision by the publisher, not because the book is poorly written.
Once you know the lack of publication isn’t based on the quality of the writing, then consider these other options.
1.Â Self publish your book. If your primary goal is to document your story for your family and friends, self-publishing is definitely a viable option. Whether you choose print on demand (POD) or regular press technique, self publishing can create a lasting document of your story, allowing you to leave your message for those who come behind you.
Are you a speaker who frequently addresses large audiences? Self publishing might also be a good choice if you’re associated with a large organization that has a built-in audience and the means for delivering your message. And even if you don’t address large audiences, if you simply want to make your story available to those who hear you speak, self-publishing may be the way to go.
But if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you must choose your publisher carefully. There are great publishers out there who produce high quality books that look as good–and sometimes better–than many traditionally published books. But there are also publishers who create sloppy products that label your book unprofessional. And in general, self-published books have a harder time getting distribution in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
So do your research! Don’t take anything at face value. A wise writer will search the internet for warnings or complaints, will have all contracts evaluated by someone knowledgeable about literary contracts, and will personally contact authors who’ve published with the house. Don’t go through the publisher or ask for references–that may not give you a true picture. Instead, find the names of authors, visit their websites, and contact them directly, preferably long after publication. There are many sites that report warnings about publishers. One is located here and has links to many more warnings.
Self-publishing can be a wonderful way to get your story out, but you have to choose wisely and be sure you know you’re dealing with a reputable company. Here’s a post by Eddie Jones, acquisitions editor of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, as he shares his Top Ten Mistakes Every Author Needs to Know Before Clicking “Self-Publish.”
2.Â Create an eBook. This is the route many self-publishers are going these days. For one reason, it’s much cheaper. For another, it’s much easier to do completely on your own. I’m not personally knowledgeable about e-Books and haven’t had any personal experience with it…yet. I do plan to use that route sometime in the future.
So here’s a post I found online that should be helpful for the steps of actually creating the eBook: How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish (+18 Ebook Templates), by Anum Hussain.
3.Â Fictionalize your story. Did you know you could create a novel drawing from the emotion, lessons, and scenes you experienced in your struggle? You can use fiction writing techniques to create compelling characters who travel your journey. Readers often connect with well-written fictional characters as easily as–and sometimes better than–they connect with real people. It’s all in the writing and delivery of the story. And a well-written novel that taps into your experiences and emotion has a much better chance of publication than the actual story of your life.
Although my Bitsy books aren’t based on horrible experiences of life, I do use a lot of real life events in my children’s mysteries. Many of the scenes, conflicts, and emotions Bitsy and her friends and family go through are taken directly from my own life. But please understand, if you translate your experiences for fiction, you don’t have to stick to the truth.
As I tell students when I teach writer’s workshops in schools, take your story or event and make it bigger, badder, meaner, and sadder. Make it funnier, happier, and scarier. Take clips from your entire life and compact them into a short time span. The lessons are still there, the testimony can still affect others, but rather than presented as truth, it’s delivered through the vehicle of fiction. And sometimes that’s the vehicle that increases your chance of publication and allows you to share your lessons of life with others.
So there’s the bad news and the good news about publishing the story of your life. Whether traditionally or self-published, Ebook or hard copy, written as real life or fiction, our stories can make a difference in the lives of others.
And if you’re writing, you need to be part of the MoGo7000 Challenge. You could win $100 just for writing your book! (See info below)
Thanks for Tweeting!
It’s Time to Hear About YOUR Successes!
Hey there, writing friends. We want to know what youâ€™ve been up to. Have you had something exciting happen recently in your writing or speaking life? Maybe youâ€™ve had an article published, signed a book contract, released a new book, got an agent, or started a new blog. If so, we want to hear from you!
Itâ€™s really simple, but I do ask that you contact me with the info in this format and order ONLY:
**Your state in two-letter abbreviation
**Link to your website or blog
**Your good news
**Link to your good news, if online (online bookstore, online article, etc)
I canâ€™t wait for us to celebrate with you!
Who MoGo’d in August?
If you wrote at least 7000 new words on a book project in August, you can receive an entry in the drawing for the 2015 MoGo7000 $100 cash prize! Itâ€™s open to everyone who qualifies.
To report your August results, please leave a comment below with your total new words written on a book project in August. (Please do not send your totals by email or through the Contact page. Totals must be left as a comment here by next Sunday).Â
If you missed out on last yearâ€™s money-winning writing challenge, donâ€™t worry, the 2015 challenge continues! Here are the MoGo7000 Challenge rules. All you have to do is write at least 7000 NEW words on a book project in any month and youâ€™ll receive an entry into the end-of-the-year drawing for $100.
Each month that you qualify with 7000 new words, your name goes in the â€śhatâ€ť for the drawing. Reach the goal one month and youâ€™ll have one entry. Just starting out? Donâ€™t worry! Meet it the next 4 months and youâ€™ll have 4 entries!
So what are you waiting for? Get started now and you could have and extra $100 next year. And it doesnâ€™t cost you a cent.
(Woman and computer photo courtesy of DavidCastilloDominici/www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net)