Publish! How to share your memoir with readers

by Jerry Waxler

Once you’ve written your memoir, will it languish in a drawer, waiting for the day when your heirs will find it? I doubt that plan will inspire you. I have always thought it morbid to worry too much about what will happen to my remains after I’m gone. I want to share my writing now. And there are so many options that can provide that satisfaction.

Writing feels like a very private act, just between your thoughts and the paper, while publishing by definition exposes you, connects you, lets others in. But it turns out writing and publishing are more connected than they first appear. This entire system of words was developed by humans to communicate with each other. Paper is simply a clever repository, where words wait until it is time to fulfill their potential. Here is a summary of the ways that writers move these words from paper to a reader’s mind.

Traditional commercial publishing
Commercial publishing is a business, and like any business, you must learn the ropes, make contacts, find what the market wants and is willing to pay for, and then make a deal. You’ll have to learn how to write queries to gain their attention, and you’ll have to prove to them that there are lots of people who admire you enough to buy your book. If you don’t prove you have lots of such people, most publishers will pass you by. All of these requirements are doable, but they take you far beyond your initial goal of sitting alone and writing.

You can bypass the commercial publishers and publish it yourself. This means no begging. You have complete control. And with control comes responsibility. No matter how good a writer you are, it’s worthwhile to hire a professional editor to fix typos and grammar indiscretions as well as to streamline clumsy sentences. And you’ll need to design the cover and format the book. It’s all up to you. But when you’re done, you’ll have published a real book that you can sell at lectures, give to family members, and market to the public.

Self-publishing technology 1 – Print on Demand
When you have a completed work, you can get it set up as a print-on-demand book through any one of dozens of such companies. They only print what you sell. There are no boxes of books in your basement.

Self-publishing technology 2 – Short run printing
Once you get your book ready for a publisher, you can have it printed in a short run, of 50 or 100 at a time, more economically than you might expect.

Blogs and websites
To get your life into the public, blogs make it as easy as writing in a diary. You might start out just for you, and as you find your voice, you might hook up with others of like minded interest or experience.

Writing groups, critique groups, memoir groups
Writing groups are a wonderful way to share creative time with a few other people, telling stories about writing, swapping tips, critiquing each other’s work. Because you share so much of yourself, these connections can turn into lifelong friendships.

Special interest groups
If your story appeals to special interest groups, like veterans, or an ethnic, religious, or professional group, your book will make a wonderful talking point to earn you invitations to meetings and to become an expert in your community.

Repurpose your material for magazine and other writing
You can keep going, using the material you researched for your memoir as raw material for non-fiction articles as well as for more storytelling and fiction.

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