From Interviews to Book: My Self-Publishing Journey

I wasn’t planning to write a book.  

I’d just begun working as a literacy consultant in Newark, NJ, demonstrating lessons for teachers and conducting staff development workshops. When I met Miles Dean, who had completed his cross- country horseback journey the year before, I thought his story could be a book.

First I wrote an article about him for Education Update.   I called my friend Marian Holmes, then an editor for Smithsonian, thinking the history Miles honored would be a great story for the magazine, not thinking I’d write it.  She gave me the assignment- a feature about the black jockeys for the magazine’s website. 

I embarked on the book project. I interviewed, read, taped, transcribed tapes, interviewed more, and set a goal. By the end of the 2009 school year, I’d complete a sample chapter and a book proposal and begin submitting to agents.

One word describes this part of the process: NAÏVE!

I sent my query to about 100 agents that accepted online, simultaneous submissions. While  about 20 asked to see more sample chapters and the proposal, none offered a contract.

I stuck with the project, believing in its story. I researched self-publishing and decided this was the way to go. Here’s where the writer/author side of me realized I was over my head. I lacked the patience to deal with the nitty-gritty of submitting, of creating a quality –looking product beyond the words, and the technological skills to promote via social networking.

I invested in a small  and impermanent staff.  This is a tribute to them.

I met Marina Bang while on a short visit to  Delhi, India.  Truly the stars were aligned. Everything that looks good about the book is thanks to her. I would begin my day at 5:30 am as she was ending hers and we’d exchange a flurry of emails. Editing, revising, editing, revising.  She created the pdf file and dealt with the submission.

I debated whether I needed a website. I’m still clinging to my personal wordpress blog, cyclingrandma and felt uncomfortable creating a website that really is all about me! But Shaila  and others convinced  me this was the way to go.

During some idle moments waiting for Marina to send back the 14th pdf file we’d been editing, I entered book promoters in a search. I sent proposals to three. And realized how NAÏVE  I was once again. Their fees and contract minimums were beyond what I wanted to invest at this time as a first-time, self-published author. Scott called me on a Saturday and we negotiated a short-term deal. He created the press kit and has gotten the book reviewed and gotten me on a few radio shows.

Then there’s Andrew. No website. He’s a Kenyon College  first year student and a tennis player. While watching our daughter play tennis, I bemoaned how I don’t know how to build a following. I’d signed on to Kindle’s Select Plan that offered a five day free promotion. I set an arbitrary goal of 1,000. We reached 795; probably about half are college students who have downloaded the book on their phones.

What’s next? I have to learn to do some of this myself. I created a Facebook  page.  (Please visit and hit like!) I’m emailing schools and bookstores, offering to talk.  And trying to think of the answer to “what is your next book about?”

(Note: I will be continuing to post on this blog for another month or so.)

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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9 Responses to From Interviews to Book: My Self-Publishing Journey

  1. Well, here’s to learning something new and the challenge of it all. I did like you on Facebook and love the new website. Here’s to the next book project.

    Like

  2. I’ve started the book…will review it on Amazon & Kindle when I’m done.

    Like

  3. Knitn' Green says:

    What a journey! I’ll get on the ball and get reviewing, but let me know if you ever want to cycle up to Western NY for a book tour.

    Like

  4. Liked you on FB as me, and as my WordPress name Tales from the Motherland. That’s 2 likes!
    🙂 What an endeavor! I’m just considering self-publishing myself… seems the more I hear, the better it sounds! Best wishes for book success. I’ll miss you on WordPress!

    Like

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