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The Joy and Frustration of Publishing

Original book cover

A lot of people start writing books. Less than a lot of people finish their books, and even fewer people follow through with publishing. I believe the statistic is 5% of writers actually publish. For some, the personal satisfaction of putting their story on “paper” is enough. For others, their story was only intended for family and friends and never for the eyes of strangers.

I finished writing my initial manuscript on February 11, 2022, and had no idea what to do next. The writing process had been easy for me. I scheduled dedicated writing time and the words flowed from my fingertips multiple days a week. This story had been swimming in my blood for years, and when I was ready, I was ready. But six months after my first words, I had no idea what to do next! Research told me to find/hire a literary agent who would help pitch my book to a traditional publishing house. The problem with that was I was unwilling to sell my story. Because of the sensitive nature, I needed to remain in control of my manuscript. No amount of money would have persuaded me to give up creative control of the content. The other end on the spectrum was self-publishing, but I wasn’t comfortable with that either. I wanted a professional product, something more than stumbling through a checklist that left me at the mercy of my own mistakes.

So, what options existed in the middle? I’ve heard many times that you should never pay to have your book published. This is not necessarily true. There are now companies that weave together a nice balance of options, for a price. Hybrid publishing gives authors the opportunity to purchase packages where they share the publishing cost up front, maintain the copyright and creative control, end up with a quality product and ultimately receive higher royalties. Many hybrid companies are “imprints” of larger well-known publishing houses. So, yes, I decided to make a financial investment in my publishing process.

Here’s an interesting part of my publishing journey. My first manuscript submission was eagerly accepted by a Christian publisher BUT they wanted me to change some of the language. I could use nothing considered “questionable” nor could I use any substitutions. As I re-read my own text, I realized that most of “language” they were uncomfortable with was in my mother’s journal entries. I vowed from the very beginning not to change her words at all. The entries would 100% be left in their original, authentic form. Changing her words was not an option, nor was dumbing the story down with nice words. Some stories deserve to be told with “questionable language!” The best part was that they agreed with me and offered to transfer my manuscript and contract to a partner company with no restrictions and so I lost no time in the process.

So, I purchased a package that included content review (legalities), line editing (with a cost per word), product design and layout (page layout, font, image placement and cover design), ISBN filing, and file distribution to Amazon and B&N. On top of this I also chose to purchase some professional marketing and 1500 press printed paperback copies. This was a gigantic leap of faith in both areas. Marketing is always a crapshoot, but I knew I needed to reach a wider audience than just my immediate circle of influence. The offset printing offered better paper, better binding, a soft-touch matte cover, and a larger royalty because I was not paying Amazon or my publisher to print on demand. It all made sense and I could have never managed any of these steps on my own.

I’m not going to go through each step in detail, but content review included things I had never thought of. When you write non-fiction, there is always the possibility of libel. I had to get written, Notarized permission from many of the living characters in the book. If I could not obtain permission, I had to either prove they were deceased, change their names, or remove them from the book completely. I ended up doing all of these options with different people. Sadly, there is still a part of the story missing because I did not want to fight for permission or open myself up to a lawsuit.

Another fun tidbit… I learned a few days before my book went to print that the cover photo I had submitted was not acceptable! My brother and I had designed and shot the photo of our mother’s journals spread out on the wooden floor of my sunroom where I did the majority of my writing. It was a stunning and significant image, but I was told I could not use it because I did not own the books in the photo. “No,” I argued, “I do own all of those journals.” They had been given directly to me and had been in my sole possession since my mother died in 2001. They were mine! What I learned in their explanation was that the blank journals my mother had purchased all those years ago were copyrighted. The companies that published the journals owned the copyright to the covers and I could not use them in a photo for my personal gain. Wow! Luckily, my brother is extremely creative and gifted and with the help of an artificial intelligence program we were able to simulate a photo within the same day. The books in the new image simply don’t exist!

A lot of the process felt like jumping through hoops, but I now understand the necessity of each hoop. Sometimes my publishing staff was impatient, wanting quick turnarounds that were impossible with my other two jobs. Other times I was the impatient one, doing everything by email and phone and wanting my project to simply BE DONE! All in all, I don’t regret a single step taken or penny paid. I may never see 100% of those pennies in return but I did not write this book to make money. Would I like to make money or be a New York Times Bestseller, of course, but I wanted to change lives and I know I have done that. My own life has changed since the day I began writing. Some days that’s enough and others I feel like I’ve only touched the surface of what this book can do. I am grateful to LifeRich Publishing, an imprint of Reader’s Digest, for helping me make this lifelong dream a reality.




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