Book marketing your memoir: deciding how hard you want to work

Unless you are a celebrity, your memoir may be hard to sell. Do you want to sell it to strangers, or is making a gift for your family enough? Why would strangers want to read it? These are important questions to determine before spending a bunch of money on publishing. Can you tell I just attended a book marketing workshop? (This one with Judith Briles, The Book Shepherd)

Selling to strangers is a business, requiring much more professional diligence and know-how, including about the dreaded marketing. If you don’t get out there and tell the world of strangers about your book, they won’t know it exists. If you are lucky enough to find a traditional publisher for your book, don’t expect them to put much effort into publicizing either. Times have changed. Check out all the famous authors on Twitter or Facebook.

What makes your memoir stand out? Are there others like it? If so, how is yours different? What angles will you use to promote interest in it? Is it worth paying for a good editor, cover designer, and interior formatter if you don’t want to mess with marketing? Assuming you have a decent story decently written, self-published books generally fail for two reasons: unprofessional appearance (including lack of editing), and/or a lack of marketing—or not knowing how to market effectively. Many traditionally published books fail, too, mostly due to lack of marketing. Let’s face it, there are millions of books out there to compete with.

What would be your definition of failure? For many memoir writers, just getting the book created is a huge success. Congratulations, you actually did it, you and your family should be thrilled! That’s no small feat to finish a project like that. How many books would you need to sell before you feel successful? Breaking even financially would be nice, but unless you know what you’re doing in the publishing and marketing department, you very well may not. If you expect to make lots of money on your book, you will probably be very disappointed.

IMAG3414So think twice about whether to publish just for family or whether you want to spend money to perfect your book and then actively market to strangers. Book marketing is an art requiring learning from experts, and knowing how to write your book so that it can be marketed easily is another learned skill. I see a lot of authors on social media who are merely annoying – nothing but buy my book, buy my book. Don’t be that author.

There is no shame in realizing you don’t want to put on a business hat and learn how to be a publicist. Your family should be proud of your accomplishment. You should be proud of your accomplishment. If you want to go family-only, you can relax and just enjoy the journey and bask in that glow of doing something truly worthwhile. If you want to sell to strangers, get your hat on and start learning now. Bask in the glow later.

How much does the average author earn publishing their book – Derek Murphy
(Serious author-publishers, check out Derek’s website, CreativIndie)

Some other book pros and book marketing experts you should know:
Joanna Penn
Joel Friedlander
Penny Sansevieri
Sandra Beckwith
Jane Friedman

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Editing old photos with beloved Picasa, and slide-to-digital converters

Thank goodness I have Picasa! I’ve been editing very old black & white print photos to save digitally and to include some in a family history book I’m putting together. Photoshop costs money and has too much of a learning curve for my druthers. Picasa is a free download with almost no learning curve, perfect for the simpler things I need to do. Unfortunately, I learned it has been discontinued by its owner, Google, in favor of Google Photos, which is NOT AN EDITOR! However, you can try downloading a free version of Picasa from Filehippo.

Last month when I visited my dad, he pulled out a stack of photos from as early as 1910. Many important photos needed all manner of fixing, from overexposure to the subjects being too small to see them very well. From experience, scanning the photos on our printer and then cropping them out of their 8.5×11-size scan page resulted in too small resolution to print out well for book quality. So I took close-up photos with my Nikon, then uploaded them to Picasa to tweak. Cell phones that take higher resolution photos would work, too, just upload directly to computer.

With Picasa, I straightened the photos I took (turning some right-side up first), then cropped to remove extraneous white edging or the background table I had set the photos on. Cropping an original photo itself could also focus more closely on the subject people, in effect making them larger. I was able to correct for overexposure or lighten too-dark photos. I could change the color temperature to remove any yellowing hue. Some photos I had to really work with, adjusting and re-adjusting. In the end, I had clearer photos with resolutions near or above 1MB, vs the lower KBs if I had scanned and cropped.

My dad also pulled out a big box of slides from photos he had taken in Japan in the later 1950s when he was stationed there in the Army. He had a slide-to-digital converter that connected to his computer, so I could place up to three slides (or one strip of negatives) into its tray and the pictures would appear on his computer screen for me to save as .jpg photos. His is an old and simple model; the new ones seem to all have their own screen to see the photos without having to connect the converter to a computer. I have quite a job ahead of me to save (and edit) all those slides, and I will be using some for my dad’s memoir, separate from the family history book.

I use Picasa for many of the photos I take, including exporting into a resized low-resolution photo to then post on social media. It will also allow you to put a watermark on your photo to claim it. I can’t forget how years ago an American family found their family photo on a billboard ad overseas. Lower resolution (less than about 60KB) means no one can steal a photo you post and create nice prints from it – and may prevent the news media from being able to grab and post a clear photo of you if you happen to be newsworthy in a bad way. Below is an example of an original photo and its Picasa-tweaked version. If you know of other good free photo-EDITING programs, please leave a comment.


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Don’t rush to publish – a family stories gift for Father’s Day?

For his 85th birthday in late May, my dad was thrilled to see the manuscript of his family history that I had put together from old interviews and some genealogy searching. I was thrilled to see his brother and most of his family at my dad’s big birthday party – cousins I hadn’t seen or had contact with in maybe 20 years! Recognizable, but with unrecognizable kids now all grown up. We had a great time catching up and reminiscing.

I gave my uncle and aunt a hard copy of the manuscript to take home and let me know of any corrections or any additions they’d like. I emailed the manuscript to one of my cousins to look over and add to. I discovered he had stories and photos from a trip to Holland where he found the church our ancestors attended. I also discovered another cousin used to sit with our grandmother when she was sick during her last year, and Grandma told many stories. This cousin was not at the party but will be visiting her parents this month and they will go over the manuscript together.

I am very glad I did not just publish what I had so I would have a nice present for my dad’s birthday or for Father’s Day. Dad did love skimming through the draft and reminiscing, but then my sister took it back to finish editing it, to catch any typos or grammar errors and find any parts that were awkwardly worded or unclear.

When I called my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day, he had the manuscript back and had reviewed it. He was a happy dad, delighted with the manuscript but we need to clarify some parts of my grandmother’s interview transcript. My dad has contact information for one of his cousins he hasn’t see in many years and hopes to meet with her next month and show her the manuscript. Maybe she will have something to add. I will look forward to getting more stories and comments from my cousins and sister. The book will become a bigger story with all of us!


Posted in capturing memories, family gathering, heritage, history, publishing | Tagged , | 2 Comments