How do I publish my memoir? I'm glad you asked, because I've just written a whole blog post on it.
You’ve written your memoir or life story, had it edited and proofread and made all the necessary changes. Now it’s as good as you can possibly make it, and it’s ready to publish.
There are a number of publishing options, and as I promised in my last blog post How Does Ghostwriting Work After You’ve Hired a Ghostwriter, I will now discuss those options, and the pros and cons of each.
In this blog post I am assuming you want to publish your memoir for the general public to read.
If you have written it just for family and friends, there are printing companies, both online and physical, who will print your story for you in book form, complete with photos, according to the number of copies you want.
However, if you want to sell your book commercially and have it available in book stores and libraries, there is a different process involved.
There are three main ways you can publish your memoir:
Traditional or legacy publishing is where you submit your manuscript to a publisher and they accept it for publication.
Publishers can range from the large, well-known companies such as Penguin Random House and Hachette to the smaller boutique publishers such as Black Inc Books and Scribe Publications.
Google ‘memoir publishers’ in your country and make a list. Visit the website of each one and look at their submission requirements.
Each publisher will be different in what they require, but most will ask for a synopsis and the first three chapters as the minimum.
DO NOT make the mistake of trying to short-circuit the process by sending the entire manuscript in the first submission. It will be automatically deleted..
If you want your manuscript to be read, it’s important to abide exactly by the publisher’s requirements.
Patience is of the essence – it might take months for the publisher to reply to you, due to the volume of manuscripts they receive.
Once upon a time it was frowned upon to send submissions to multiple publishers at once; you were supposed to wait until you got an answer back from one before submitting your manuscript to another.
But the industry has changed since then. Publishers have realised how unworkable that is, especially with the long delays in replies, and have acknowledged the fact that authors will make simultaneous submissions to other publishers.
So feel free to go ahead and submit to as many publishers as you want.
If the publisher, after reading your first 3 chapters, asks to see the rest of the manuscript, that’s great news.
It means they’re impressed with your writing and you’re head and shoulders above most of the other submissions.
But try not to get your hopes up. They may still come back with a ‘this manuscript is not for us’ reply after reading it. You will rarely get more detailed feedback than that.
The rejection may have nothing to do with the quality of the manuscript, but more to do with whether the sales department think they can sell enough copies to make money, or a myriad other factors outside your control.
And even though I’ve said, ‘don’t get your hopes up,’ you can’t help but get just a wee bit excited when the publisher asks to read the entire manuscript.
So after you receive the disappointing reply, take some time to lick your wounds and keep submitting.
If you receive an acceptance for publication, congratulations! You can really celebrate, you are one of the very few to do so.
Pros Of Traditional Publishing
1. It's Cost-Free
Once your manuscript is accepted for publication, the publisher takes on all the costs involved, from editing and proofreading to publishing and distributing the book.
They will take on some of the costs of marketing, especially when it first hits the bookstores, but you will be expected to do a lot of it yourself. Especially over the long term.There’s no getting around it – you will have to do a lot of your own promotion if you want to sell books, no matter which publishing method you choose.
3. An Advance Payment
You may receive an advance upon being accepted for publication. It's essentially a down payment and you have to earn it out in royalties, so it’s really just a payment in advance for expected sales.
Many publishers, especially the smaller ones, don’t pay an advance at all. The larger ones may pay a couple of thousand dollars, if you’re lucky.Those stories you hear about six-figure advances? They do happen, but it’s the stuff of fairy tales, so don’t bother booking your round the world trip. And when they do happen, it’s even rarer for memoirs, unless you’re a celebrity.
There is kudos in having a manuscript accepted by a publisher, because the odds of this happening are very low. So you can give yourself a pat on the back and revel in the feeling of achievement and the congratulations of your peers.
However, as I said above, it doesn’t mean that if your manuscript was rejected by traditional publishers that it’s not as good as, or even better than, those that have been published..There are other options, as outlined below.
Cons Of Traditional Publishing
1. It's Slow
You will wait between 12 to 18 months, even longer, for your book to be published and hit the bookstores. If your book is relevant to a particular event, it could be published sooner, but it doesn’t often happen.
In this case, patience is not only a virtue, it’s a necessity!
2. Little Control
Although some publishers invite the author’s opinion on cover design, the jacket blurb and interior layout, the final decision rests with them.
You have little control over the final product. This can be frustrating if you’re the type of person who likes to have input into all parts of the process.On the other hand, it can be a plus. The publisher has the knowledge and experience of what is commercially viable, so you could trust their judgement and be thankful that someone is doing the work for you.
3. Low Royalties
Royalties from traditional publishing range from 7.5% (paperback) to 25% (e-book) of the retail price. So you have to sell a lot of books to make a decent amount of money.
Hopefully, that’s not your main reason for writing your memoir – if it is, you’ll be sorely disappointed!
Partner publishing, sometimes called hybrid publishing, is where you pay the publisher upfront to publish your book for you.
Each publisher is different in the range of services they offer, but they usually provide all the services of a traditional publisher - editing and proofreading, design and layout of the manuscript and cover, and sales and distribution.Most companies offer varying levels of marketing and promotional services as part of their packages.
Partner Publishing Examples
Publicious https://www.publicious.com.au/ is an Australian partner publisher to whom I have referred clients and whose services I recommend.
Reputable partner publishers don’t accept every manuscript submitted to them. They evaluate your manuscript against certain criteria, which are broader than that of traditional publishers, so there is definitely a higher chance of your manuscript being accepted.
Partner publishers don’t have to worry about recouping the publishing expenses through your sales, because you are paying the cost. But their aim is still to publish good quality books to maintain a certain status and reputation.
Some publishers also retain a percentage of your royalties, so they have an added incentive to publish books they think will sell.
Pros Of Partner Publishing
1. An Alternative Path
It provides an alternative route to publishing if you can’t get a traditional deal, but you don’t want to spend the time and energy to self-publish.
2. Higher Royalties
You may earn higher royalties than traditional publishers offer, and some companies allow you to retain 100% of your royalties.
3. It's Fast
The publishing process is a lot quicker than that of traditional publishers. Depending on the workload of the company you hire, you should have the finished product in your hands within a few weeks.
4. More Control
You have much more input into how you want the book to look, in terms of cover design, layout, (especially if there are photos) and the jacket blurb.
If you don’t have much of an idea about any of it, the publisher will guide you with suggestions, but if you have firm ideas about what you want, they will take those into account.
Cons Of Partner Publishing
1. It's Expensive
It will set you back a few thousand dollars, depending on how many copies of your books you want for your own purposes, to sell yourself. And you may not recoup your expenses from the sales.
There are plenty of scamming publishers around willing to take large amounts of money from aspiring authors desperate to be published.
Read the contract very carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Be wary of publishers who charge large amounts of money for marketing/promotion.
Marketing is an inexact science; no-one can guarantee sales, and it’s difficult for them to prove that they’re doing what they’ve promised.
If you’re not sure about a particular partner publisher, check out this site Writer Beware, which alerts writers to all sorts of scammers.
Or type the name of the publisher into the search bar of Google, followed by the word ‘scam’ or ‘complaints,’ and see what comes up.If you can’t find the publisher on any scam list, but you’re still not sure about them, ask them if they can put you in touch with a couple of authors who have published with them, so you can ask them about their experience. If the publisher is genuine, they’ll be willing to do that.
Get Legal Advice
Following closely on the heels of the question; "how do I publish a memoir?", is "should I get legal advice?"
Yes. Once you’ve found a partner publisher you’re satisfied with, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer look over the contract, to make sure there are no potential loopholes that could be to your disadvantage.
I’ve left this one till last, because it’s the most difficult, though it can also be the most rewarding. With self-publishing, as the name suggests, you take on all the publishing tasks yourself.
Of course, you don’t physically do them all (unless you’re multi-talented), but you’re the project manager who outsources the various tasks. This means you have to find:
- A Proofreader: You need a professional proofreader to fix spelling, grammar and punctuation errors in your manuscript. DO NOT skip this step. You can’t see your own mistakes, and readers will not take kindly to a book full of typos.
- 2A Cover Designer: Again, don’t try to do this yourself, unless you have experience in this field. You need a professionally designed cover that is evocative of the story.
- A Formatter: Someone who can format your manuscript for e-book (mobi for Kindle and epub for Apple devices) and print. You can do it yourself if you’re up for the challenge and willing to learn – it’s a fiddly and time-consuming process.
- 4DIY or Pay? If, like me, you don’t have the motivation or patience, pay someone to do it for you, and save yourself the frustration. You then need to upload the files on to the various book sales platforms, some of the main ones being Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and IngramSpark. Then comes the fun. The marketing!
Pros Of Self-Publishing
1. Full Control
You have full control of all aspects of publishing. This can be a little scary at first, and if this is your first experience in self-publishing, it’s a steep learning curve. But the satisfaction of seeing your book, completed and for sale, and knowing you did it all, is tremendous.
2. It's Quick
Once the manuscript is edited and formatted and the cover design done, you upload it to the various book retail sites. On most sites, you create an account and it’s free to upload your books.
One of the exceptions is IngramSpark, who charge you $49 to upload a print and e-book.
3. You Can Make Changes
If you want to update material in your book, or fix errors that you become aware of later, it’s easy. Just make the changes in the original file and upload the new file to replace the old one. You can do this as many times as you like, with no penalty or cost.
4. Higher Royalties
Your control of the publishing process means you also set the price for your book. The higher the price you set, the higher the royalties – up to a point. You still have to price your book in line with market trends – if you price it above the average cost of other memoirs, you won’t make any sales.
The royalties paid by digital book platforms are higher than traditional or partner publishing. On Amazon, royalties are 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, which is the price range of most books, and 35% for books below or above these prices.Other book platforms have a similar royalty payment schedule, with slight variations.
Cons Of Self Publishing
1. A Lot Of Work
It’s hard work and there’s a lot of learning to do if you’re new at it. However, there is plenty of free information on the internet on all aspects of self-publishing, and many helpful author Facebook groups.
You also have to do all the marketing yourself, which is a daunting task. There are many different ways to do this.
I would advise you to do some research; there are plenty of blog posts on this topic, for example this one on Reedsy, How to Market a Memoir – Top Tips from the Experts.
If you want to produce a quality, professional-looking book (and who doesn’t?), you can’t get around the fact that you need to spend money.
Depending on how much editing and/or critiquing you have done, plus the cost of the cover design and the formatting, you could be up for at least $2000; sometimes more.Having said that, it’s still usually less expensive than partner publishing.
How Do I Publish A Memoir Conclusion
So there you have it. The information I’ve given you is the bare bones to get you started – each option could easily be the subject of its own blog post.
As you can see, each form of publishing has its pros and cons. Traditional publishing is the only one that won’t cost you money, but it’s also the hardest option to come by.Many memoir authors go down the route of submitting to traditional publishers, then if they aren’t accepted, they go with partner or self-publishing.
Either Way, Get It Written
Others don’t want to wait months for publishers to reply to them, so they self-publish. I self-published my memoir Making the Breast of It.
Admittedly, I had already self-published a few books, so the process was relatively easy.
Have you published a memoir, or thinking of it? I’d love to read about your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.If you’d like to discuss hiring me to write your memoir for you, click on the button below which will take you to my contact page. Submit your name and email address and I will contact you as soon as I can.