publishing your memoir

18871933_sPublishing your memoir, holding the book in your hands, seeing it listed for sale on the internet; even before you began writing a memoir, you probably imagined yourself as the proud author of a new book.

But how do you go from a manuscript—a stack of printed pages or a computer file containing your story—to a finished book?

There are two main options: traditional publishing through a publisher, or self-publishing, a do-it-yourself approach that has become very popular during the past decade or so.

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to read all contracts carefully. Publishing your memoir is a business endeavor, and should be treated as such.

Going with a standard publisher?

Also known as “standard publishing,” this was long the customary way of turning a manuscript into a book. Acting on your behalf, a literary agent identifies publishers who are likely to be interested in your memoir, then asks them to read it and consider publishing it. If one of them agrees to do so, that publisher will handle the copy editing, proofreading, cover and interior design, printing, distribution to bookstores, and other matters. In turn, you will be paid a certain amount of money per book sold. (You may also receive an advance payment, a “down payment” on the copies of your book that the publisher expects to sell in the near future.)

If you’re going the traditional route, you’ll need to:

  • Create a book proposal to demonstrate your book’s quality and potential profitability to both agents and publishers
  • Create a query letter to approach literary agents so you can secure representation
  • Send your query letter to agents likely to be interested in your type of memoir
  • Send your book proposal to any agents asking for more information about you and your book. Once you’ve signed with a literary agent, he or she will approach publishers on your behalf.

In future blogs, I’ll describe the query letter and the book proposal. If you’d like to submit your memoir idea to a literary agent, or just browse some websites to learn more about agents, see my list of “100 Literary Agents to Contact.”

Self-publishing your memoir? 

Over the past 10 to 15 years, many authors have made use of the ever-growing self-publishing industry. They typically do so for two main reasons: Bypassing the traditional publishing system ensures that they will be published; and the resulting book may be completed and available for sale much quicker.

But if you’re like many authors, you may feel that self-publishing is a daunting prospect. After all, you will be the one who handles all the steps required to turn a manuscript into a physical and/or e-book, including cover design, getting an ISBN, printing, possibly setting up e-book files, and so on. And you have to pay for it all.

Fortunately, you have choices. You can do it all on your own, hiring a cover designer, a printer, and everyone else you need. Or you can work with self-publishing companies. These companies offer different levels of service, which can be divided into two main categories.

Two levels of self-publishing service:

  • Full Service Self-Publishing Companies – They offer publishing packages that cover a variety of services, including editing, design, marketing, and listing your book for sale on Amazon and other sites. They may even have their own online bookstores where they can list and sell your book. Full-service self-publishers, which include companies like Author House and Infinity Publishing, offer a variety of packages, with prices that range from a few hundred dollars to $20,000 or more. They also offer à la carte services, including editing only, cover design only, and so on.
  • Printers That Support Your Self-Publishing Efforts – They print your book and may offer a few additional services, such as cover design, but the remaining tasks are left to you. Examples include 48HourBooks and Morris Publishing.

If you should decide to self-publish your memoir, consider carefully how much time and money you can devote to the effort. In other words, how much do you truly want to do yourself, and how much are you willing to pay for help?

If you’re looking for a professional ghostwriter to create your memoir, contact Barry Fox. I have ghostwritten fascinating and successful memoirs and successfully supervised the self-publishing process. You don’t have to go it alone!