Publishing an Educational Memoir
by Linda Austin, Moonbridge Publications
updated May 2015
Is your memoir full of historical detail as well as personal experience? Do you think libraries might want your book as reference material? If so, you may want to handle your book a little differently from other types of memoirs.
University presses are an option for publishing nonfiction, historical work. These days many are suffering from lack of financial backing, and so they may be interested not just in their professors’ writings but in work with more commercial sales potential. Read through a university press’s website before submitting a query, and if your book genre is accepted and would fit well with other books published, carefully follow directions for submitting. No agent is required.
University presses usually will have their books posted to Amazon and other online sales outlets as well as feature them on their own website, but may not offer e-book format. If a university press accepts your book, make sure they will indeed get your book available on Amazon and B&N online. Ask whether they will handle e-book formatting or whether they will give you the rights to create the e-book.
If you publish the memoir yourself, you may want to choose a publishing option that provides distribution to libraries. Amazon’s CreateSpace offers an Expanded Distribution option (now free), but the purchasing terms given to bookbuyers and libraries are not as good as they are used to receiving through their usual buying channels. Libraries, however, may still order the book if they know about it, hence you will need to do a publicity campaign using email or postcards. Libraries will also buy books upon customer request.
Using Ingram Spark (or Lightning Source, Inc.) as a digital printer automatically puts your book into the Ingram database, and Ingram is a major wholesaler to booksellers and libraries. CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution option will put the book into the Ingram system also, but at higher cost to buyers, as mentioned previously. Ingram Spark requirements for uploading are more complex than for CreateSpace, so you will probably need to hire a book designer to format your work correctly. Your professional book cover designer can format the cover to specs. Ingram Spark charges fees to upload text and cover, unlike CreateSpace. Spark books do show up on all online bookseller websites, although Amazon has taken to stating availability as anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks despite books being available immediately. (See Resource articles on CreateSpace and Ingram Spark)
If you publish independently, you may want to get publisher cataloging-in-publication data (P-CIP), which is the cataloging information libraries use to file print books on the appropriate shelves. P-CIP data is included at the bottom of the copyright page of print books. Quality Books will provide P-CIP information for $100. Quality Books will also enter the P-CIP data into the WorldCat online database used by libraries everywhere. You can search the WorldCat database yourself to see which libraries carry your book.
The Library of Congress (LOC) also provides CIP data (sometimes called LC-CIP) for free, but is slow about it and particular about which books it accepts. You may apply to the Library of Congress PCN (pre-assigned control number) program to receive an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) to place on your copyright page. This number does not guarantee the LOC will, in the end, accept the book and provide cataloging information, but if and when it does, librarians can look this number up in the LOC database to find the data.
Many small presses and independent-publishers use Quality Books or other CIP data providers rather than the Library of Congress. Five Rainbow Services provides CIP data for $59, but requires you to apply to the Library of Congress PCN program for an LCCN number first.
A historical memoir is a valuable resource providing a personal look at everyday life and culture in a time that no longer exists. Especially if you plan to publish for the public, please treat your memoir as the treasure it is and have the book edited and produced as professionally as possible within your budget. If the book is a war memoir, you may want to send it to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, or donate it to your local history museum or state archive.