Lessons learned 1 year in print

“Write a book” was on my list of New Year’s resolutions for at least five years before I accomplished my goal and published my memoir. “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal” has been out for one year now, and here are five things I’ve learned about writing — and publishing — a book:

  1. Amazon is THE place to self-publish. I can’t say enough good things about Amazon. The Kindle and CreateSpace portals are easy to use, the pricing fair and the size of the marketplace is unmatched. If you can format your book properly, you can publish directly with Amazon without paying a middleman, and if the nuances of Microsoft Word are beyond you, pay someone to format your book, but don’t pay anyone to “publish” it. Lots of self-published authors want to game the system by lobbying for “likes,” finessing search terms and even paying for reviews in order to get better position on Amazon, but in my experience, just being there is enough to appeal the biggest market segment of readers. Fully 85% of my sales can be attributed to ebooks on Kindle, paperbacks created on CreateSpace and sold through Amazon, and direct sales of those paperbacks ordered through CreateSpace. With my next book, I’m going to try using KDP Select which encourages exclusive ebook publishing through Kindle.
  2. The self-published book landscape is like a modern garbage dump. Sure, you might find an antique rocking chair in good condition there, but everything else is useless, broken and covered in moldy gravy. Mingling as I do among self-published authors, I find a well-written unique gem every once in a while but most of the titles I’ve attempted to read are riddled with typos, cliches and pointless exposition. I can’t tell you how many of them garner 5-star reviews. Which leads me to No. 3:
  3. You can’t please all the people all the time. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is never more true than when talking about books. “The Percussionist’s Wife” has an average of 4.3 stars on Amazon and more than one reviewer said she couldn’t put it down, but it has also been called boring and “the title if far more exciting than the book itself.” I’ve found many reviewers of memoirs tend to review my life choices more than the structure and writing in my book, but that goes with the territory. (When I get a bad review, I comfort myself by reading the 1-star reviews of a book that I loved. Haters goin’ hate.)
  4. Promoting a book is as time-consuming as writing it. If I spent as much time writing my next book as I have promoting my current title, I’d have it done. I’m not complaining though. I have a marketing background so I don’t mind popping into social media, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every live book appearance I’ve done. I absolutely love meeting and talking to people who have been touched in some way by my story. If I help someone else make better decisions than I did, then every minute spent writing the book and promoting it will be worth it. And that explains No. 5:
  5. Memoir is my genre. I’ve sold six times as many books as the average self-published author but “The Percussionist’s Wife” has not gone viral, and it probably won’t. I’m not a celebrity (name recognition increases memoir sales immeasurably), but I can’t work up enthusiasm for writing mystery, science fiction or romance just to capture readers. At least not right now. I’m too much of a journalist at heart. I enjoy telling stories about real life (which also explains why I’m so attached to my Minnesota Transplant blog, my personal blog that breaks all the rules about single-issue blogs and the importance of focus). Maybe I’m a little bit narcissistic, too. So be it. I don’t see anyone getting excited about something I’m not excited about. I’m having a ball reliving the year I turned 15 in my current work in progress, and I hope other people will enjoy it, too. And I’m toying with ideas for at least four other memoir-type books after that. If Jen Lancaster can do it, so can I.

The Percussionist's WifeIn honor of being in print one year, I’ve slashed the price of “The Percussionist’s Wife” by 30 percent. Whoo-hoo! The ebook is $6.95 on Kindle and Nook, and the paperback is $11.95 here. (Tell your friends!)

If you’re interested in meeting me in person or getting a book signed, I’ll be at the Aurora Public Library Author Fair from 1-3 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 7, at Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Ave., Aurora, Ill. The Author Fair features a romance panel discussion in the adjacent room, keynote speech by Beverly Jenkins and light refreshments. Meet other Northern Illinois authors, too.

Want to try your hand at writing memoir? Join me in October when I talk about “How to Write about a Challenging Life Event” at Wadena Deer Creek Middle/High School, 600 Colfax Ave. S.W., in my hometown of Wadena, Minn. I’ll be teaching at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8. Preregistration is required; click here to find out more.

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One thought on “Lessons learned 1 year in print

  1. I published my memoir only 7 weeks ago, but I absolutely agree with all 5 of your lessons. Since I haven’t killed anyone, or slept with anyone famous, or rescued any movie stars from burning buildings, it is slow going, but this is my genre as well.

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