Battlefield Doc is now with the (real) editor! Nearing the end of a three-year slow journey, this collection of stories by a Korean War medic on the front lines of hell has been occupying my time lately in the big push to publish this November. That month holds Veteran’s Day and is National Lifewriting Month. I am thinking ahead for marketing purposes, to hook into these special occasions. Marketing is a plan, not a last-minute thought.
This morning I spent three hours at a strategic planning meeting for a nonprofit looking for more members and corporate sponsorship. Our facilitators described something like the business plans I am used to creating for book writing and marketing. What is the group’s mission (purpose of the book) and the most important strategic goals to help accomplish this mission (overall objectives needed to reach your specific readers). What are the benefits of being part of your group (why would somebody want to read your book). What initiatives (specific tactics) will you use to reach those goals (readers). Most writers don’t want to think about this, but they should after the first draft is completed or even before starting to write. Answering these questions can help focus the book to its audience and let you add things to the story that will help sell it. This is vital for nonfiction writers, including narrative nonfic writers (memoir authors). Even if your memoir is only for family, you want to consider the specific purpose of the book and what will interest your family.
Battlefield Doc: Memoirs of a Korean War Combat Medic is about the real life experiences of our soldiers beating back waves of enemy (and forced civilians) and how combat medics went with them trying to save lives. I have to target readers who want to know details of grunt soldier’s lives, so nobody leaves a bad review because we didn’t include what President Truman did or didn’t do or how awful General McArthur was at that time. Enough books exist about the history and politics of the Korean War, we want to offer something new. A business (strategic) plan helps identify how your book can stand out in the crowd.
As for editing, I am a ferocious editor, but this book was extremely difficult to put together from a stack of handwritten journal notes, the stories separated and with no dates. My veteran friend and I have picked the manuscript to pieces, so we both are blind to errors now. Our eyes see what they want to, not what is. I sent the “final” draft to the editor and also gave a copy to a friend who loves military stories. She is my beta reader (test reader). Within hours she had suggestions to make the important intro chapter read better (no typos—yay!). Never underestimate the importance of a second (and third) pair of eyes.
What is the purpose of your memoir? Why are you writing it and what will readers get from it?