self-publishing, writing

Unravelling the Intricacies of Publication

Talk about a learning curve! After years of writing, revising, querying agents, revising, querying more agents, revising some more and querying even more agents, I’d had enough. Call me the little red hen. If no one would help me, I’d publish this book myself. I had poured my heart into a memoir about my years in Turkey, and it was time to put it to bed.

Famous last words.
Scrivener logoI’d purchased Scrivener on the advice of a friend and used it for my final versions of the book. It’s a great program for writing; I wish I’d used it from the get-go. If I had, I’d have formatted my book as a novel. But I didn’t. Water under the bridge.
I knew there were tasks ahead if I wanted to publish on my own. I’d have to choose an avenue for publication, design a cover, format the book, and then market it on my own. A tall order to be sure, but I’d had no idea.

CHOOSING AN AVENUE FOR PUBLICATION

First, I’d have to chose a self-publishing company or a vanity publisher. There are plenty out there, and each offers different services. I researched online and talked to friends who’d self-published. After much deliberation I decided to go through Amazon because it has no costs up front and offers an impressive online presence. It’s not so great for marketing to bookstores, but more on that later. Amazon it would be. If the book did well I’d publish a photo version through IngramSpark, which offers cheaper color printing plus a wide distribution channel.

publishing logos.jpg
DESIGNING A COVER

Now for the cover. I’d decided to call my memoir “You must only to love them” after a bit of advice from a young Turk about managing Turkish students. I found it endearing as well as true. I have about 20,000 photos from my years in Turkey (not kidding), and I pulled a few favorites that I thought might look classy. I had mosque domes with a night sky, the Sultanahmet skyline at sunset, a poppy with a lake and mosque in the background, and the list goes on. I incorporated the title on a few, and they looked nice—but not great.

cover A
Too Dull
blue cover
Too blue
flowers cover
Pretty, but not particularly Turkish
poppy cover
I liked this one best, but…

It didn’t take me long to realize that a book about people should feature people on the cover. Duh! I pulled some photos of students and children I encountered in Turkey and finally chose a photo of me posing with costumed dancers at Mount Nemrut. It was my husband’s favorite photo of me. My artist friend Sue suggested that a handwritten title would offer a warm touch, so I wrote the title about a hundred times before I got one I liked. I sent my cover layout to my son Dustin, who used his graphic design skills to spruce it up. I’m lucky to have him.

Cover 795KB
The final cover, spruced up by my son Dustin

The front cover was enough to post the e-book on Amazon, but the paperback version needed copy for the back, and—oh, yeah—the spine! So much to think about.

FORMATTING THE BOOK

Years ago I attended a writing workshop that offered a session on formatting your book as an e-reader. I wasn’t open to e-publishing at that time, but from what I heard it was more than daunting. Fortunately, things have changed.
I felt pretty smart when I learned that Scrivener will magically format your book for e-readers (as well as other formats). Well, not totally. I soon realized that I had a lot to learn. I worked to educate myself about compiling the book from my manuscript, and it took weeks. I watched and re-watched the Scrivener tutorial videos, but my most valuable resource turned out to be writers’ blogs. Thank God for Google and the wonderful people out there helping us neanderthals understand the techno-world! I think I may have compiled the e-book fifty times and repeated the process again with the paperback, which had to be done differently. I felt envious of people who understand techno-speak, let me tell you.

So here I am with a beautiful cover (if I do say so myself) and a pretty good memoir all ready for the world. Now all I have to do is get the word out. Oh dear.

My memoir is available on Amazon—click here to check it out.

 

writing

Things Change

As I peruse my shelf of writing resources, Rogets Super Thesaurus,, The Elements of Style, and The Pooh Book of Quotations, I marvel at how the computer has changed the way I write. I seldom reach for those books nowadays, preferring to consult my computer’s thesaurus, which only requires typing the word I want to improve. I can pull up quotations in an instant on Google, and my computer warns me when my grammar isn’t up to snuff. Is this a good thing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My once-necessary resources sit (hardly used) above my computer.

 

I may be showing my age, but I remember writing on a lined tablet with resources lined up on the desk. Today my desk sports a printer/scanner/fax machine, a notepad, a camera, a computer, and a coffee cup. Is it simpler? Is it better?
I know it’s faster. I just timed myself, and I can only write about 40 words a minute, while I type more than twice that, almost as fast as I can think. I remember being frustrated that while I wrote longhand I would often lose a thought as I wrote the previous one. That doesn’t happen at the computer.
Natalie Goldberg, revered writing guru, lauds the value of writing by hand because of the organic connections it fosters. I’ve tried to go back to it, but my arthritic paws resist these efforts. I skip letters, and my handwriting is nearly illegible when I rush. The computer is clean, quick, and correct–but is it as deep?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I still need to plan and organize by hand—old habits die hard

Many mourn the demise of the handwritten personal letter, and I must admit I’m tickled each time I receive a letter with a handwritten address, astonished if there’s a handwritten missive inside. I have one friend who still writes me longhand. Sweet.
I remember the excitement I felt at each tissue-thin blue letter from my London pen-pal, and the thrill of opening a long letter from a relative or friend was always a joy. air mail letter

It just doesn’t happen any more. We’ve all changed. A quick e-mail or text is the norm these days. I’m not quite up with the text thing, but I expect I’ll get there.

I guess I’m a victim of this new age, this new technique, this new speed. If my computer helps me get through my writing tasks a bit more quickly, I’m glad. I have a lot of things I love to do away from my desk. There are sunrises to marvel at, woods to snowshoe, and lakes to paddle.
To each his own, huh?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
So this is my way, a screen surrounded with handwritten notes. And, of course, a coffee cup.
writing

REVISION NUMBER WHAT?

Me sitting on Musa Basaran's 6th floor terrace overlooking tthe Marmara, annmariemershon.com, amershon.edublogs.org, You must only to love them, Istanbul's Bazaar Quarter, Britta's Journey
Ann Marie over Istanbul

After six years blogging about Turkey, it’s time to move on. Well, sort of. I’ve devoted (well, that’s an exaggeration) even more years to crafting a memoir about my experiences there, which I’m ready to revise yet again. Hopefully for the last time.

I constantly reminded my writing students (dedicated and laconic alike) to avoid the grocery list format. So, what’s my memoir? A 115,000-word grocery list.

Oh, I’ve spruced it up with anecdotes, attempting to include descriptions that evoke the spirit of Istanbul. Things like “I peered down at the Bosphorus glittering beneath us to spot a medieval fortress blinking up from its stony ramparts, no doubt bemused by the modern suspension bridge above spanning two continents—and many more centuries.” Sadly, it hasn’t been glittery enough to spark the enthusiasm of an agent. I WANT an agent!

I’ve published two books, so don’t I deserve an agent?

Book number one was a children’s historical novel, Britta’s Journey~An Emigration Saga, loosely based on the emigration experiences of an elderly neighbor (and friend) who died before the book was published. That one sold about 4000 copies, which isn’t great, but it’s not too bad, either.

cover
Book number two was Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours. I co-wrote this with my Turkish friend Edda Weissenbacher after being fascinated by her backstreet walking tours through Istanbul. I was the photographer, map-maker, and writer/editor, working from short guides Edda had written for each walk. That book is in its third printing and has sold nearly 6000 copies. Slight improvement over Britta.

Hans book cover

But I digress. My Turkey memoir is the topic of the day. I attended a writer’s conference recently and in a workshop led by Catherine Watson, a travel and memoir writer, I was encouraged to begin anew, preserving the gems from my current version and weaving them into a narrative that focuses on my personal journey. This feels like a tall order, but I’m going to get it done.

My problem is time. My husband Jerry and I have just devoted the last two summers to working on our new home, so there’s been little time for writing. We’re in the new house now, I’ve got my office back together, and I promised myself to devote at least a few hours each day to this new project. I’m encouraged, and deadlines work for me. I’ve just printed up the entire revised, revised, and revised memoir, which I’ll attack with a highlighter over the coming week. Then I’ll start the new narrative. I sure hope this works. At least I have a direction.

If nothing else, I have more ideas in the hopper.