Category Archives: publishing

Publishing stories about mental illness and recovery

flying

(Photo courtesy of John Cobb)


A small number of publishers make it their mission to give voice to creative writers who have experienced mental illness. I’ve listed those of which I’m aware, and I’ll update the list with anything else I discover. Feel free to suggest additions by leaving a comment.

The periodicals and online publications should be of interest particularly to memoirists who want to accumulate writing credits before seeking publishers for their book-length manuscripts.

Asylum

The Awakenings Review

Bridgeross Communications

Chipmunka Publishing Ltd

Doll Hospital

The Examined Life Journal

The Healing Muse

Hospital Drive

Manic Musings Magazine

Melted Wing

The Mirror

NOUS

Open Minds Quarterly

Penntal Health

Recovering the Self

r.kv.r.y quarterly

Think Piece Publishing

Turtle Way

How will readers ever find your book?

It may well be that you don’t have enough time for a career as a book author, and writing is really just a hobby, a side gig, or a form of therapy for you. No problem. In that case, you don’t need a literary agent, or more correctly, the literary agent doesn’t need you. If you want to make money as an author, on the other hand, then your books must be discoverable. Readers won’t come to you. You’ll need to find ways to get on their radar. You’ll need to become an author whose books are recommended by one reader to another. That’s how books and their authors become bestsellers.

Let’s say your book was published in 2013. More than 300,000 new titles were traditionally published in the U.S. in 2013. In the same year in the U.S., more than 1,000,000 new titles were non-traditionally published, a figure that includes self-published books. How many of those books did you read? How many can you name? How many of the authors can you name? How would a stranger have ever found your book among the 1,300,000?

browsing books

(FreeImages.com/Nick Manning)


When you’re browsing in a bookstore, how many books do you leaf through before selecting one to buy? What attracts you? What makes you put a book down and choose another? Do you typically search for new titles from authors who are known to you? Do you like to read what your friends are reading? Your book is evaluated in the same ways.

If your book’s page on Amazon lacks a compelling description and any customer reviews, and the Amazon customer who happens to come across it has never heard of you, and you have no online presence to give the prospective buyer any information, then why would you expect the person to pay for your book instead of the latest from Clive Cussler or one of the titles longlisted for the Man Booker or the novel everyone at the hair salon is discussing?

If you know anything about online booksellers and social media, then you know it requires effort to capitalize on the exposure they can offer books and authors. It takes time and technical ability to maintain multiple online profiles and learn to write compelling sales copy. Working at it every day for three years might get you up to speed, provided you already possess some basic social skills. There are no shortcuts. Thousands of writers are there ahead of you.

Don’t know where to start with self-promotion? You can join the crowd of writers who remained clueless. You’ll know them. They’re the ones you’ve never heard of.

Everything you want and need to know about book marketing and self-promotion has been debated at length online, where you can find vast amounts of information on author platforms. Start with Jane Friedman’s excellent blog. I’ve gathered links to “Publicity tips for book authors.” Good advice comes from Joel Friedlander, Joanna Penn, and Penny Sansevieri. Self-published authors are generous with recommendations. Don’t assume that marketing strategies for traditionally published authors should differ from strategies for self-published authors. The main addition is the need to coordinate marketing and publicity efforts with a publisher or publicist, if there is one.

Learning about the business of selling books is doable if you want a career as an author and are willing to work hard for it. No one will mind if you prefer to remain a hobbyist. Just don’t make the mistake of asking me or a book publisher to donate time and money to support your hobby.

There’s no magic. Succeeding as a book author is hard work.

My work isn’t easy. The work my clients do isn’t easy. I’ve had clients who didn’t want being a successful book author to be challenging work. They aren’t my clients anymore.

For some writers who are consumed with the idea of getting a literary agent and having a book published, their obsession feels an awful lot like work. The dream occupies their time and exhausts their patience, yet it doesn’t result in progress. It’s especially easy for them to find and commiserate with other writers who don’t make particularly good role models. It’s harder to find a way out of the rut.

The level of difficulty and the amount of work involved are the reasons there are relatively few successful authors. Not many writers possess the necessary creative talent along with a willingness to develop crucial skills and the time to devote to the job of collaborating, improving, and adapting.

There’s no magic, no secret, no shortcut. It’s purely hard work.

don't just stand there

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Sheldon)

Who publishes military memoir?

This is the first time I’ve assembled a list of periodicals and small presses that publish the memoirs of military personnel. The question arises occasionally. I’ll continue to add to the list when I can. Please leave a comment if you know of a specialized publisher I’ve overlooked. Keep in mind that many other publishing houses bring out military memoirs occasionally without specializing in them.

ABC-CLIO, LLC

Alternative Book Press

Blue Nostalgia: A Journal of Post-Traumatic Growth

Elva Resa Publishing LLC

Fonthill Media Limited

Hellgate Press

The History Press

The Journal of Military Experience (JME)

Maverick House

Military Officer

MilSpeak Books

Naval Institute Press

Osprey Publishing, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing

Parameters: The U.S. Army War College Quarterly

Pen & Sword Books Limited

Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press

Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors

Tattered Flag Press

Texas State Historical Association Press 

University Press of Kansas

Vallentine Mitchell & Co., Limited

Vandamere Press

War, Literature & the Arts

Also of interest:

4th Division Press, a children’s book imprint of E.L. Kurdyla Publishing LLC

The Blue Falcon: A Journal of Military Fiction

Blue Streak: A Journal of Military Poetry

This is dedicated to the one…

I’m dedicating this music video to the lovely and poised young woman who introduced herself to me at a writers’ conference. I fear I broke her heart when I told her that Author Solutions, Inc., is sometimes referred to as a vanity press. If I’m lucky, she’ll remember me in the same favorable light as the older woman in this video.

Enjoy “Oopsie Daisy.” It’s cute.

Looking for a writers’ conference in the Carolinas?

I’ll be participating in two writers’ conferences next month: one in Columbia, South Carolina, and one in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sponsored by the organizer of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop (SCWW) and the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop, the day-long events in the Carolinas will provide an overview of your book publishing options today, with an emphasis on traditional publishing.

Also scheduled to meet with authors on April 17 and 18 during the 2015 Carolina Writing Workshops:

Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency

Diana Flegal, Hartline Literary

Kristy Huddle, Comfort Publishing (only in Charlotte)

Melissa Jeglinski, The Knight Agency

Sam Morgan, Jabberwocky Literary Agency

Chuck Sambuchino

Chuck Sambuchino

The star of the show will be workshop instructor, editor, author, and playwright Chuck Sambuchino, the man who knows how to bring out the best in aspiring authors who are learning to present their ideas to agents and publishers. For years, Chuck has been keeping writers informed with his Guide to Literary Agents Blog and directory.

My favorite part of the upcoming workshops is the Chapter One Critique-Fest, which actually will be a first-page critique of anonymously submitted writing. I’m always pleasantly surprised by agents’ and editors’ concurrence of opinions during these sessions. The manuscript samples that are read aloud can give writers a valuable sense of the competition they face even at beginning levels.

I’m looking forward to meeting you in Columbia or Charlotte. Come prepared to talk about yourself and your writing. I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions about my work as a literary agent, too. See you next month!

Writers who take the initiative gain an advantage

It’s difficult for new writers to comprehend that having a literary agent doesn’t mean the end of all rejections. When I’m able to persuade an acquiring editor to read a manuscript, the writer continues to face considerable competition. At the major U.S. publishing houses, each acquiring editor opts to read perhaps fifty or more manuscripts per year and selects from them maybe five or fewer that are published.

Lately, when manuscripts of equal quality are being evaluated, one factor that tends to tip the scales in favor of an acquisition is the author’s ability to help promote the title before and after it’s published. Publishers aren’t impressed with earnest promises; before investing, they look at what an author already has done to become familiar and interesting to readers.

Six years ago, when I started my agency, consideration of an author’s platform wasn’t as prevalent among publishers, but aspiring authors were learning how to use social media to their advantage. Now that a good percentage of creative writers are entrepreneurial, many editors view the absence of a platform (or the lack of an established readership, or name recognition, or whatever you choose to call it) as an additional reason to disqualify a manuscript and move on to those that have more potential to be profitable.

Some writers simply aren’t good at self-promotion, and it’s not something anyone can do for them. On the other hand, when a publicist at a publishing house and an author are able to collaborate easily—when they’re on the same page, so to speak, and the publicist doesn’t need to do much explaining—a successful book marketing campaign is far more likely.

Some writers excel at self-promotion, but their manuscripts aren’t superlative. What then? Is it easier and more cost-effective to fix an imperfect manuscript or to teach a writer how to make connections with readers? The jury’s still out on that question. I suspect that by the time I’m reading a query from an aspiring author, the individual already has reached his or her peak performance in both arenas and won’t be able to show much improvement. In other words, earnest promises don’t impress me. Evidence of self-initiative does.

Walt Whitman

(Detail of the entrance to the Detroit Public Library)

The value of memoir

Favorit typewriter

(Photograph courtesy of Florian Klauer)

Sherrey Meyer gets extra credit for calling it what it is: “Healing life’s hurts through writing.” Her genre is memoir, and her website is a wonderful resource for writers who are working on their life stories.

Celebrity memoirs will find publishers. And a truly talented writer can entertain readers by recounting even an ordinary existence. But to be perfectly honest, when memoir writers contact me about representation because they believe publishers might be interested in their manuscripts, usually they haven’t dealt with three major areas of concern:

  1. Their author platforms
  2. Commercial appeal—that is, having written something of significant interest to a large number of readers
  3. Legal liabilities, including libel, copyright infringement, privacy rights violations, and breach of another’s right of publicity

Sometimes writers can be too emotionally invested in the creative process to recognize that the value of putting their thoughts on paper has been mostly therapeutic. Sherrey Meyer is showing them that memoir writing is worthwhile when shared with just a handful of readers. Turning the finished work into a commercial product is by no means necessary.

Others with generous advice for memoirists

Two sharp criticisms of contemporary memoir