This article is written by Molly Srode, author of Creating a Spiritual Retirement: A Guide to the Unseen Possibilities in Our Lives. Molly has been a valued contributor to my books for years. She was kind enough to share her journey to the publication of her first book as this month’s publishing tip. You can purchase Molly’s book, Creating a Spiritual Retirement, at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, or at a bookstore near you.
PUBLISHING A BOOK WITH A SMALL PUBLISHER
by Molly Srode
The following article is about my journey to publication and some tips that might be helpful for the prospective nonfiction book writer.
Creating a Spiritual Retirement: A Guide to the Unseen Possibilities in Our Lives, began with a deep desire to share with others the spiritual ideas that give meaning to my life. I made the decision to retire so I could focus all of my attention on this pursuit. To attract a publisher, my book had to offer the public something unique.
When I looked at the multitude of books on spirituality, I began searching for a distinctive approach to my topic. As I progressed through my retirement, I received lots of information on investing money, choosing long term insurance, finding the right housing, but nothing about the challenges retirees face from an emotional and spiritual perspective. Bingo! I had my book hook.
Pub Tip # 1 You must be excited about your topic and willing to invest time in writing about it. Find a unique perspective.
The honeymoon was over and now it was time to tackle my subject. Poised in front of my computer, I began the first sentence but the words just didn’t seem to flow like I thought they would. After sweating out a few paragraphs, my critical shadow stood over my shoulder telling me how stupid it all sounded. I worked and reworked those paragraphs until that shadow could say, “Not bad.”
Pub Tip # 2 It is not easy writing a book. Keep going. You won’t write a perfect copy the first time around. Get the idea down then revise and rewrite until your critical self says, “OK.”
Over the next two years I wrote sporadically, giving myself time to think about the content and allow it to develop. Finally, I felt the book was ready to show a publisher. At this time I became aware of the need for a proposal. I read various books on writing a proposal and tried writing one myself. I still felt that it needed some tweaking, so I turned to a professional in the field, June Cotner, for help. Working with June on the proposal was one of the best investments I made. She was able to expand my understanding of the various elements in the proposal and make suggestions for improving my work. This proposal was my foot in the door of the publishing world. The proposal, along with a good query letter, was my opportunity to attract an agent and/or publisher.
Pub Tip # 3 Do not underestimate the importance of your book proposal. Most agents/publishers will never see your manuscript. After the query letter, the proposal is your opportunity to tell a prospective agent or publisher what you can do.
From reading and attending writing workshops I came to realize that agents and publishers want more than just a manuscript. They also want a commitment from the author to market the book. They prefer someone who already has a “platform” to promote their book. This platform could take many forms such as a lecture circuit, a radio show, or teaching in a local college. At the time I did not have a platform but was committed to promoting my book. Since my husband and I travel and camp, I stated that we would be willing to travel to states with a high population of retirees, for book signings and other types of promotional activities.
Pub Tip # 4 Explore possibilities in your own milieu for promotion of your book. What can you do, in your circumstances, to promote your work?
With platform and proposal in hand, I started querying agents. I used The Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman to help locate appropriate agents for my work. June also gave me some suggestions for agents. Although none of the twenty-five agents I queried expressed interest, one agent passed my letter to a beginning agent who requested my proposal and the manuscript. Three months after I sent the material, she sent me a list of changes that she wanted to see made to my manuscript, including a request to develop some kind of platform.
As a result, I wrote letters to the Activity Directors of local senior centers and senior residences stating that I would be willing to give a nondenominational lecture on Senior Spirituality, free of charge. I received an excellent response! Over a period of five months, I gave fifteen lectures at senior facilities. I also initiated a bimonthly newsletter to keep in touch with those who attended my lectures. Later, when my book was published, this newsletter became an excellent marketing tool.
Over the next three months, I completed the tasks given to me by my agent and reported back to her. Unfortunately, I never received an acknowledgement. Three more months went by without a word from my agent. Despite numerous e-mails and phone calls, there was no response. I finally wrote, asking for my materials to be returned and terminating our relationship. She did return my materials with the comment that she was trying to promote another book on retirement and it was not going well.
Nine months after my first contact with this agent, I was no further along than before. I felt at a crossroads. I could continue to query agents or I could take matters into my own hands and send out my work to smaller publishers who accepted material directly from authors.
Pub Tip # 5 An agent can be a valuable companion on the journey to publication. There are many things an agent can do for you. An agent has the ear of major publishers and can negotiate with them in a way that is not possible for an author to do. Authors need to decide what course of action is best for them, based on their own needs for their book project.
I made a decision that was in my best interest. I began querying smaller publishers interested in spiritual and/or religious material. Thankfully, I found my niche! I received several requests to review either the proposal and/or the manuscript. There was a definite interest in the subject and the book. Skylight Paths was the first publisher to make an offer, and I accepted.
It has been a marriage made in heaven. I have been consulted at every turn and have taken an active role in writing marketing copy, finding endorsers, changes in text, illustrations, and much more. I had a half-hour telephone conference with nine staff members regarding the cover design. I speak frequently with the editors and the publicity manager who knows my schedule and sets up interviews for the all-important newspaper articles.
Pub Tip # 6 There are advantages to working with a small publisher directly. If you cannot get an agent, try sending out your query letters to smaller publishers that you have researched as being interested in your topic.
Each author’s journey is unique. There is no “one-size-fits-all” map to publication. If you love your work and stay persistent and patient, you will find the road that is right for you.
© Molly Srode
Article provided by June Cotner, publishing consultant and author of the bestselling Graces and Dog Blessings and 24 other books. PO Box 2765, Poulsbo, WA email@example.com
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